ANTIGO - This month we're looking at hunger in the Northwoods. We've brought you the stories of dedicated volunteers and programs that bring thousands of pounds of food to families in need. This week we're focusing on WHO benefits from hunger relief in the Northwoods.
It's not easy to find someone willing to talk about their struggle with hunger. Thankfully Helen Adair of Antigo shares her time helping the food pantry, and she was willing share her story as well.
Helen knows too well what it's like to go hungry. As a child in Scotland during the Second World War rations were slim and hunger was inescapable.
"You get knots in your stomach," Helen said, "And my mother used to say, 'Drink some water. Drink some water' so there was something in our stomachs."
In 2013, in the United States, we don't live in war-time. Still, hunger is here too.
"It shouldn't be. This is America. Everyone should have plenty to eat," says Helen, "You know? It shouldn't be- but it's here."
Today Helen's need for food is much less severe. Even so, for her and many families in the Northwoods, a limited income forces tough choices.
"The money is gone and you need products. You need toilet paper, laundry soap..."
As Helen puts is, 'We all need to eat', and everything else has to wait. Hygiene and medication fall to the side, but a food pantry puts those back on the shelf. It gives families a little breathing room. Donna Rus knows just how much that means.
"They will give us a hug, 'thank you so much, oh my child will really like this... We haven't had oranges or apples for a really long time'," said Donna, the President of the Steering Committee that runs the Antigo Area Food pantry, quoting some of their patrons. "Some of the small children will take an apple, and before we can even wash it, they'll bite into it. So they are delighted."
How in the world do people struggle for food in the wealthiest nation in the world? Divorce, lay-offs, hours being cut, elderly grandparents caring for children- these are the realities that Donna see bringing people in to their food pantry- Things that could happen to anyone.
"Just last week we had a member of a family register with us and said ‘I'm so embarrassed, I never thought it would come to this'."
For that family and nearly 400 more, the Antigo Area Food Pantry is there to take some of the bite out of hunger.
The Antigo Area food pantry has only been open since May. They formed when local church food pantries combined to better serve the community.
LAKE TOMAHAWK - All around you witness goodwill gestures. It could be as simple as a smile and wave or opening a door for someone. In Lake Tomahawk, it's making a pie.
"I made a pretzel crust with butter and sugar, " explains Sheila Punches. Sharon Hilgendorf adds, "Flour, for the thickening."
Snowshoe baseball's been entertaining crowds since the 1960's. But over at the concession stand, the pie takes center stage.
Strawberry rhubarb, banana butterscotch pie, blueberry pie, rocky road and coconut cream are just a few of the creations. "I like making ones that I think will appeal to the crowd," says Linda Penno.
Each week a different service club's in charge of the snack shack and in turn, takes home the proceeds. Locals bakers, a lot of local bakers make their best pies and donate them to support the cause.
"You get involved with it over the years and it just becomes your way of life on Mondays," says Punches.
On an average night they sell 80 pies. Each one is cut into six pieces and are only two dollars a slice. That means making almost a thousand dollars is easy as pie.
Ken Lochte of Rhinelander exclaims, "This is the only place you get your dessert first, before you get your food." "It's a great honor and pleasure and I've been doing it for quite a few years now," adds Rebecca Morien.
No matter how you slice it, everyone benefits from this unique fundraiser.
"It is unique and different which makes Lake Tomahawk special," says Morien. "It's a very good fundraiser for the community who in turn give it all back. So, it's kind of a domino effect you know," adds Hilgendorf.
If you think this is a lot of pies, the team is requesting the bakers provide double this Friday. They're hoping to have more than 200 pies for the Snowhawks game against the Wounded Warriors.
CONOVER - The Chain Skimmers Water Ski Team from Conover won the state title for their division last weekend in Wisconsin Rapids. Summer water ski shows are a wonderful part of the Spirit of the North.
"I don't know how to spend the summer anywhere else," said Jessica Clark.
She is one of about 35 skiers between the ages of 12 and 31 who spend their summers on Lake Pleasant in Conover. They come from Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida and Texas.
RHINELANDER - You can expect to see a major reconstruction in Downtown Rhinelander in 2016. The downtown area will improve its look and layout through a "streetscape" project. The new look could include wider sidewalks, outdoor restaurant seating and parking changes on Brown Street, but before any of that happens, city leaders need feedback from their community.
Downtown Rhinelander Incorporated already had surveys filled out b businesses in the area about parking on Brown Street.
The construction company came up with a compromised solution. The proposal keeps Brown Street as a two way street, but there will be parallel parking on the west side and angled parking on the east side.
47-year-old Karen Wessell of Star Lake died in yesterday's swimming accident in Vilas County. A boater pulled 2 people out of the water after they started drowning on Star Lake. We now know Wessell died shortly after.
Wessell went under water during a rescue attempt.
The Vilas County Sheriff says 3 women and 4 kids were along Trampers Trail. 3 boys swam across the channel and were told to come back. They got tired swimming back to shore so the women had to help. Wessell used herself to push one of the boys above the water to keep him from going under. A boater saw them, pulled them out, and started doing CPR.
MERRILL - Members of a Northwoods union chapter gathered unique inspiration for a fundraiser - The Beatles.
Merrill-area Local 6 members gathered Wednesday on the Wisconsin flowage to raise money for groups in need of assistance. The union leaders organized boat rides, raffles, barbecues, and contests. The inspiration for the fundraiser came, in part, from the 1965 Beatles single Help!
"I found out it was the anniversary of the 'Help!' release from The Beatles record, and I decided, let's help our community," said Local 6 Vice President Valerie Nelson. "Our membership is very passionate about certain organizations within our community. One being the Lincoln County Humane Society, the local food pantry, and the American Cancer Society."
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