Local Nonprofits Provide Thanksgiving Meals Through Food Pantry Programs

WAUKESHA — Two nonprofits in the Waukesha community, the Brookfield Lutheran Church Thanksgiving Basket Committee and the Southeastern Wisconsin Emergency Support Group, are among many food pantries providing Thanksgiving meals to community members.

According to Sue Beck, coordinator of the Thanksgiving Basket Committee at Brookfield Lutheran Church, for approximately 18 years they have given around 1,000 baskets of food to families in Milwaukee on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The committee works with churches in the Milwaukee community to provide Thanksgiving boxes. This year they’re doing 966 boxes of food and providing gift cards.

Over 100 volunteers at the church assist with putting together the food donations, Beck said.

She said every year they provide the number of food baskets requested. Last year they provided 1,006. The group previously received food from Feeding America, but Feeding America more recently hasn’t been able to to assist due to the volume of requests they receive, Beck said.

The group is working to be cost-effective due to price increases they’ve noticed, she said.

The SE Wisconsin Emergency Support Group, a local nonprofit choice food pantry that formed due to the impacts of COVID-19, has expanded their operations.

On Thursday, the organization had approximately 100 turkeys and other Thanksgiving fixings, on top of weekly food options, available to individuals who have registered with the organization.

Founder Rochelle Gamauf said the nonprofit operates at the Southminster Presbyterian Church at 200 Richard St., Waukesha.

The nonprofit receives majority of their food from Feeding America. They also receive food options from two different bakeries each week.

The group has expanded to serve over 500 people. Around the same time last year, the nonprofit served approximately 100 people, Gamauf said. In total, the nonprofit has served over 1,400 people, 600 of which are children.

“Our numbers have grown substantially, probably 25% over last week, so we’re just seeing such a huge demand (and) more families that need our help every week,” Gamauf said.

Gamauf said they are trying to prepare for 2022, expecting more people to be struggling and in need of help.

“We’re still doing weekly services and what we call ourselves is a choice pantry,” she said. “So we give families the option to choose their own product, which is kind of different than the traditional model. We have over 150 items for them to choose from.”

Gamauf said there’s power in choice.

“We like to say that we help out the working families that just need some help — the reason being is like a large number of our people are not qualified for the traditional pantry model,” she said. “We have no income restrictions or no residency restrictions, so I like to say that we’re removing those barriers.”

Ultimately, Gamauf said, they just want to help people pay for expenses they are struggling with, such as rent or mortgage.

The nonprofit is planning to give out hams for Christmas. They are also fundraising to host a Santa Christmas party event for children. They also plan to have child sponsors for Christmas gifts. For more visit the nonprofit’s website at www.sewiesg.org or their Facebook group.