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I keep hearing people say “I’m so done with winter.” And I think to myself, if only winter were done with us!

But that’s got to happen pretty soon, right? It’s human nature to want to be done with unpleasant things as quickly as possible, to just get them over with.

A bazillion inches of snow, sore backs, freezing temperatures, ice dams, flooding and water leaks now that the snow is melting—yeah, enough already.

If only we could just say the magic words “I’m done with that” and have it be so.

Many of us may feel that way about other things, too. An illness, a job we don’t like, a bad relationship, homework, cleaning—I’m so over that, whatever it is!

I think about the people who come to Stepping Stones each day, seeking food or shelter, help with a utility bill, a car repair, help finding low income housing—looking for ways to meet the most basic needs. I’m sure they’d like to be done with all those worries.

If only they could say the magic words and have all their worries be resolved.

The poverty rate in Dunn County is 14.2 percent. In the city of Menomonie it’s 26.1 percent. This compares to the overall state rate of 12.7 percent, according to For a family of four, that’s an annual income of less than $25,750.

Solutions to the issue of poverty are complex but include higher wages; access to health care, child care and higher education for everyone; and affordable housing.

In the meantime, which, unfortunately, is a long time, communities need safety nets like food pantries and homeless shelters, places like Stepping Stones, because government programs only meet a fraction of the need and some of that funding is once again on the chopping block.

The good news is that for most people the difficult times are temporary. The average length of time for someone to live at poverty level is only a year or two.

Events like losing a job, having work hours cut, divorce or a serious medical problem may cause a family to fall into poverty but they are generally able to overcome these obstacles in a fairly short period of time.

We don’t see the same people over and over at Stepping Stones. We have an average of 50 new families using the pantry every month—people who have never needed it before—that’s the sad news.

Sure, there are some folks who live on a limited income and may need longer-term assistance but the majority are able to get back on their feet again.

They go through a difficult time but do come out on the other side. It just takes a ‘stepping stone.’

Stepping Stones offers hope and help so people in need can be done with worries about how they’re going to get by—how they’ll feed their family, find housing, pay their bills. We let them know they will get through this.

We know we’ll come out on the other side of winter, too.

But, hey Mother Nature, how about a few hopeful signs of spring? Warmer days, buds on trees, a crocus or two would sure be nice. Soon, soon.

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Katherine Dutton is the executive director of Stepping Stones of Dunn County. She can be reached at


Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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