New Plum City Food Pantry coordinator takes the reins
"It's so wonderful to see a child's eyes light up when they get to make a choice off the cookie shelf."
The joy that comes from giving folks the opportunity to feed their families motivates new Plum City Food Pantry Coordinator Jim Musgrave. His calm, soothing demeanor exudes two qualities he embraces: humility and gratitude.
It's obvious serving people to the best of his ability defines Musgrave, who took over the pantry coordinator position from Leonard Dodson the week of Nov. 6.
Musgrave is quick to point out that he's "carrying the torch" passed on to him by Dodson, who served as the coordinator for nine years.
"When you take something over, it's your hope to have someone alongside you to help you learn your new responsibilities," Musgrave said of being trained by Dodson and coordinator assistant Wanda Ebensperger.
According to Musgrave, Ebensperger's title should have the word "priceless" injected into it, an adjective that also describes the roughly 20 volunteers who make the pantry's gears turn.
Friday, Nov. 3 those volunteers gathered to honor Dodson for his years of service, who decided to give up the coordinator position due to health issues.
"I got restrictions on what I can lift and moving around like you need to do at the pantry is tough," Dodson said, who underwent a knee replacement.
When the Second Harvest delivery truck pulls up to the pantry on Wednesdays, up to 10 volunteers make sure the food is unloaded, organized and stocked. On Thursdays, when the pantry is open to clients, six to eight volunteers help families navigate food choices and shop.
As for the Spanish speaking families who use the pantry, Musgrave wishes he could speak more with them. Even though the southern Californian native turned Wisconsin dairy farmer's daughter's husband comes from an area populated with Mexican Americans and migrant workers, he woefully admits he can greet people and that's about it.
"I really want to connect with them and show an interest in their families, ask how they're doing," Musgrave smiles.
The Arkansaw-area resident, who became a Wisconsinite in 1995, began volunteering at Plum City's pantry about seven months ago.
"I made myself available," Musgrave said. "It was noticeable right off the bat that I could help lift and coordinate. Lots of heavy products come in."
When Dodson approached him about passing the reins, Musgrave prayed and thought about it. He was moved to take over the responsibility.
"I'm here every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," Musgrave said. "There is a lot of information that must be recorded." That's how the pantry meets its donors standards.
Dodson said he'll still help out, especially with record keeping and manning the front desk. He finds the work rewarding.
"When you have families in dire circumstances who didn't even realize there's a food pantry there, to see their reactions," Dodson said of knowing his work makes a difference, not only to families who may find themselves unexpectedly out of work, but elderly community members in need. "I've had many elderly people tell me if it wasn't for the food pantry, they wouldn't know how they'd survive."
Plum City Care Center Activities Director Laura Kadlec said both Musgrave and Dodson "are wonderful men."
"Jim has been super appreciative of all our efforts here and grateful for our donations," Kadlec said. "Len is also a super giving guy and compassionate toward people and his work. He has been generous with donations of bingo candy to the care center. In the past, Len made bird houses and bird feeders for the residents here to stain and paint."
As for community donors, anyone can choose to give.
"We are so blessed with the generosity of individuals, businesses and corporation foundation grants," Musgrave said. "And it's all in wonderful timing, because it always seems to be at the right time. It's always what we were needing right then to move forward."
Musgrave's volunteer work carries over to a group called Watermark Mission, run by Gary and Rosie Asher of Eau Galle though St. Henry's parish. He is grateful for the opportunities he's had to travel to Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma to aid folks who've suffered water-related disasters.
The pantry serves a need many don't know exists, right in Plum City backyards.
The Evangelical Free Church was the site of the first pantry, which moved to its current location (301 First St.) in 2009. Ebensperger said the pantry building used to be her father's auto repair shop. The gas pumps were out front. He serviced mowers, rototillers and other engines until 1979. After that, the building housed a convenience store and movie rental place at one point.
"Wanda and Leonard's hearts were not only to meet the immediate and pressing needs to provide proteins and staples, but in wanting to offer clients something more," Musgrave said of the duo's work to transform the current pantry into an inviting space.
That is also why clients are offered the option of picking out treats such as ice cream, baked goods or cookies, along with the necessities.
"We all know what nutritionists say, that we should eat salads," Musgrave smiled. "But there's just something (about a treat) once in awhile that makes you feel good."
This year to date, the pantry has provided 108,294 pounds of food to 828 families, which includes 609 children ages 0-17, 940 people ages 18 to 59, and 581 those age 60 and older.
"If anyone has a heart to give, we would never say no to a food donation," Musgrave said.
However, financial donations can have even more of an impact as the pantry can buy food from Second Harvest and Food Group at extremely reduced rates, making a dollar go a lot further.
The pantry serves clients on Thursdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the exception of the second Thursday of each month, when hours are 3-7 p.m.