If you’ve been in the Co-op recently, chances are you’ve noticed the brightly colored, Andy Warholesque cards hanging by the registers. They look like cans of food for a reason. The cards are an invitation for shoppers to participate in our P.O.P. Program.
Pantries of Plenty was launched in 2014 and is designed to offer much needed assistance to our neighborhood food pantries during the holiday season, when demands on the food pantries increase. Last year, our customers gave over $4,000 dollars to P.O.P. which was distributed to Goodman Community Center, Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, Lussier Community Education Center and Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM).
This year, we are asking you to be generous again. When you pick up one of the brightly colored cards hanging by the registers, your contribution directly affects a member of our community. Take a couple of minutes and search the question, “How many paychecks away are Americans from poverty?” The results may shock you. Sources say that many struggling with financial insecurity are between one to four paychecks away from poverty. An unexpected medical crisis or serious injury could result in financial disaster.
MOM client Mary knows this pain firsthand. Mary is a proud woman and, out of respect for her privacy, I’ll not use her real name. She’s tall with light brown hair in the process of giving way to gray. She was a thriving filmmaker with a few awards under her belt until a medical emergency took her health, her money, and eventually her home. Mary believes that she would not be here today without the assistance she received from MOM.
“As a client of MOM, they’ve played an extremely important role in my life. It was the first time I needed help and had health issues that really brought me down.”
We’re chatting in a small office, just off the main entrance. Mary is there to pick up food from the pantry and do a little shopping in the clothing distribution center. It’s getting cold...again and she’s in need of a Wisconsin-worthy winter coat. Mary says, “It was hard to ask for help,” however, once she got to know the staff that changed.
“They feed so many people, and they do it with such graciousness and dignity. Not all places are equal when it comes to that, especially if you are in a vulnerable situation. When you come here, you have no concern about somebody treating you in a way that is going to be hurtful.”
Mary says that due to her serious health issues, she’s on a restrictive diet. She was delighted to find that MOM had her covered, but that wasn’t the only happy surprise!
“You don’t hear many stories like this...over the couple of years that I’ve been coming to the pantry on a regular basis, I’ve lost over 100 pounds. They have extraordinary food. So even though I have to stay away from sugar and have a sodium-free diet, they’ve actually introduced me to a healthier diet. You know, I’m a member of the Willy Street Co-op…. it’s like going to the Co-op because there's quinoa, rice, whole foods. It’s just an amazing opportunity. They are amazing; they are like a jewel in Madison.”
So, the next time you are in the Co-op and you see the POP cards near the register, allow yourself to imagine being in Mary’s shoes. Remember, that she too is an Owner and a member of our community.