In response to a growing need he sees in the community, Mark Gierach has staked out the basement room of St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Saukville in an effort to fill the shelves with food and clothing.
As a member of the church, he has volunteered his time for months to prepare this new food pantry, set to open Jan. 12.
"People are asking themselves, 'Do I make the mortgage or put food on the table?'" said Gierach, who is the director of the executive board of the food pantry. "No one should have to make that distinction. That's our goal, to make sure no one has to choose between somewhere to sleep and getting food for themselves and their children."
In years past, handed out meals occasionally, generally around the holidays, but it was on a limited basis, Gierach said. Gierach was interested in taking it a step further, and began working with volunteers from Immaculate Conception to start a new food pantry as a nonprofit in spring.
The food pantry's executive board has members from many community organizations such as the Lions Club, Moose International and several churches. Gierach said most of the volunteers have never worked at a food pantry before, and the board is looking to build partnerships with other organizations such as Interfaith, Balance Inc. and Feeding America.
"We're just trying to help those that need the help," Gierach said.
They've also reached out to local businesses and received donations from and , who provided a $1,000 start-up grant.
The shelves are well-stocked with nonperishable food, school supplies, toiletries and clothing, but there are several empty shelves Gierach hopes will fill before they open.
Gierach said he has no prediction for how many people will show up at the pantry when it opens. Meals at Immaculate Conception would generally serve 50 to 60 people, he said, but he expects more to come to the pantry.
"We don't have a clue as to what we're expecting to see," Gierach said. "We don't know exactly where we're going."
Unlike many other food pantries, Gierach said their pantry does not plan to limit access to families at a certain income level. They will ask for identification proving residence in Ozaukee County, but will still try to assist those without identification or residence.
"If you have a need, we will help you," Gierach said. "There's so many people in this world that have so much less than we have, especially now.
"There are people that are overlooked, that have very little or next to nothing. You could say they've fallen between the cracks."