Addressing unexplained food shortage will be priority for Port Washington agency’s new director
The shelves of the Port Washington Food Pantry are running woefully low, and officials from the agency are seeking help to fill them.
Filling them will be the first order of business for new director Chris Flint of Port Washington, who on Friday, May 1, will replace longtime administrator Joy Dreier, who retired in January.
That job will be made a little easier Saturday, May 9, when the postal carriers hold their annual food drive. People are asked to put donations next to their mailbox, where they will be picked up by mail carriers and brought to the Food Pantry.
Last year’s drive brought in 8,200 pounds of food — enough to last the Pantry about 3-1/2 weeks, said Bob Dreier, president of the Food Pantry board of directors.
“It’s unbelievable. The shelves are really low,” said longtime volunteer Cathy Schowalter, who has been filling in for Joy Dreier. “It’s the lowest I’ve ever seen them.
“I really hope people realize the need we have for food.”
Clients at the Pantry are given bags of food, and in recent weeks she’s had to buy far more than normal to make sure the bags are full, Schowalter said.
Joy Dreier said it’s typical to see the shelves run low later in the year, since food drives aren’t generally held in summer, but this is earlier than normal.
She’s not sure why, but noted that the director of Family Sharing told her they are facing the same issue.
Schowalter noted that new clients are coming to the Pantry every week.
“I’ve had so many new clients this year,” Schowalter said. “Your heart goes out to them hearing their situations. It really makes you realize how good you have it.”
The Food Pantry has been serving about 97 families each week, Bob Dreier said, adding that the agency’s client list has 242 registered families representing 667 individuals.
Flint, a New York native, will become only the third director of the Food Pantry.
“I’m excited , anxious, nervous,” she said. “I have big shoes to fill.”
Flint, who has a degree in math, spent much of her career in the retail sector in New York, Chicago, Massachusetts and Milwaukee.
In 2007, she lost her job to downsizing after the company she was working for was bought out. That same year, her husband died.
Looking for a job, she had a flash of inspiration while reading the newspaper one day.
“I thought, ‘I can be a Realtor. Why not?’” Flint said.
She went to school and became a real estate agent with Realty Executives.
She retired last year.
“I loved the challenge, but you reach a point where you say, ‘Enough,’” Flint said.
That’s not to say she sat at home waiting for her next opportunity. Flint is the treasurer of the Port Washington Womans Club, is active at St. Peter of Alcantara Catholic Church, where she is an usher, Eucharistic minister and member of the cluster council, and does some work at the Ozaukee
Flint didn’t volunteer at the Food Pantry, but after Joy Dreier retired and no one stepped forward to fill her post, board member Phil Groothousen approached her to see if she would be interested in the job.
She’s now working with the Dreiers to learn the job.
“My goal is just to make sure we keep going and serving the people who need our help,” Flint said. “It’s a shame so many people need us.”
That’s been the goal since the Food Pantry was formed in 1982, Joy Dreier said. At that time, Ellie Schiff, who worked at Cope Services, recognized the need because of the large number of calls related to hunger she received at the hotline.
She came to the St. Peter’s Parish Council and presented a plant to start a food pantry, asking parishioners to bring a food item to Mass each week to help the hungry, Joy Dreier said.
Working through the county’s Social Services Department, the priest initially handed out bags of food to people who sought them. Later, she and Schiff would come in on Tuesdays to organize things.
Eventually the operation moved to the basement of the rectory, where it continues to open its doors to those in need on Tuesday mornings. Eighty-four volunteers staff the Pantry.
“It all seems simplistic, but it worked,” said Joy Dreier, who took over as administrator of the Food Pantry in 1984. “It grew and grew and grew.”
Image information: CHRIS FLINT (left) will succeed Joy Dreier (right) as director of the Port Washington Food Pantry this week. Photo by Sam Arendt