Pat Zimmermann, the new director at the Pierz Food Shelf, wants people to know they can call her if they need help from the Food Shelf. She, with the help of her right-hand man and husband, Jim, has been running it since September 2016.
The small white building, tucked on the southeast corner of the Fire Hall next to Billig Park in Pierz and out of the public eye may not seem a likely place for a food shelf. That may very well be because that was not its original purpose. That facility was built by a high school construction class in the 1980s to be used as a warming house.
Back then, Billig Park on Main Street in Pierz was flooded for use as an ice skating rink. A few vandals put an end to the building’s use as a warming house, said Pierz resident Lorae Vardas.
The Pierz Food Shelf originated in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Vardas said, not remembering the exact year Hildegarde Bujalski came up with the idea and got it started.
Vardas did remember that the Food Shelf was originally housed in a building owned by Myron and Susan Kujawa, on the southern edge of Pierz, where farm machinery parts were sold. Susan was Bujalski’s daughter.
When the Kujawas moved their business and their home out of town, the former warming house was suggested as the spot to house the Food Shelf.
Back then, Bujalski also had clothing available, some from donations, some from her own shop, “Tops and Bottoms,” that had been sold to Judy Meyer and became “Family Fashions.”
In August 2016, Bernie Stangl, who succeeded Peggy Hoheisel as director and held that position for 10 years, passed away after battling cancer for several years.
Pat had been a volunteer at the Food Shelf for five years and said Bernie sort of “trained her in.”
However, people still call Bernie’s husband, Danny, when they need the Food Shelf during hours it’s not open, Pat said. She said he’s up to the task, but Pat would like people to know they can call her.
Pat and Jim say the generosity and support of the community is what keeps the Food Shelf going. The couple gets a lot of help from about 20 volunteer workers who unload trucks and stock shelves.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” Pat said.
Then there are the donations from generous community organizations, from individuals and from multiple food drives, such as the one held at Halloween time by the Father Pierz School of Religion and the Healy High Student Council.
Monday, as Pat and Jim talked about the Food Shelf, a gentleman stopped in to visit and write a $50 check. A woman stopped by with the proceeds of a “Baby Jesus Baby Shower,” held by parishioners at St. Joseph’s Church over the Christmas season, including diapers, bibs, baby hats and more.
Pierz Foods donates bread on a weekly basis, and Pat said Larry Schmidtbauer shows up every Monday to unload it.
“I’m bragging up Pierz again, but we really have a good core community,” Pat said.
Then there are big surprises when someone comes in with a $500 check.
Recently, the Pierz Lions donated $2,500 to put new carpeting in the building.
Pat also asked the Lions for a donation to purchase a new refrigerator.
“One of the things that was really funny when I put in a request to the Lions for a new refrigerator and carpet, all of a sudden it started snowballing,” she said. They began asking if a new building was needed.
“We don’t need a new building. It’s very, very functional,” said Pat. It could use a little sprucing up, though, she said. Perhaps in the spring.
While all donations are welcomed, monetary donations do the most good in procuring food products, as Pat and Jim can purchase goods at a very low cost from Second Harvest Heartland. They also do a fair amount of shopping for specials. Pat does the shopping, Jim looks for the best specials to get what Pat called “the biggest bang for the buck” from the donations received.
Pat called Second Harvest Heartland “wonderful.”
She said, “I am amazed at the food that is donated there, that is available to us.”
Jim said some of the food at Second Harvest is even available to them for free.
“That really stretches a dollar,” Pat said.
Items at the food shelf are offered at no cost. Patrons simply need to fill out a form, including data like how many people are in the home and their ages.
“The guidelines are very generous,” said Pat.
Patrons can use the food shelf once a month, although if an emergency exists, they can call.
Pat works for a five-member Board, including Lynn Egan, Amanda Marshik, Colleen Lucking, Brenda Girtz and Mary Korf.
The Food Shelf is open four hours a week, Mondays, from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. It serves an average of 50 families in eastern Morrison County each month, and is open by appointment for emergency needs.
If people need emergency help, they can call Pat on her cellphone at (320) 232-7501 or at home, (320) 468-7134.
“It’s been good and I just need to promote it because that’s what we’re here for,” Pat said.