Adams County woman works at food pantry that helped her years ago

Emily Klein used to receive food from the pantry and now she coordinates orders and deliveries to help her community
Emily Klein helps feed roughly 45 families in the Adams County area
Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 4:00 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2021 at 10:42 PM CST
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GRAND MARSH, Wis. (WMTV) -A woman in Adams County knows firsthand how a food pantry can make all the difference. She’s come full circle -- from needing a little help herself to dishing out good deeds and some good food.

Emily Klein moved to the tiny unincorporated town of Grand Marsh about seven years ago. After settling in, money was tight right away.

“I had just moved to town, I was newly divorced, and things were kind of tight and I didn’t realize the things that the pantry could offer,” said Klein.

The Grand Marsh Food Pantry was just starting out, but Klein began receiving food on a weekly basis. She says there is often a stigma involved with people who utilize the services of a food pantry.

The food pantry in Grand Marsh gets stocked for the week
The food pantry in Grand Marsh gets stocked for the week(Tim Elliott)

“I think it starts as embarrassment and feeling self-conscious of what people will think of you,” she said.

Eventually, Klein felt the need to give back to the pantry that had helped her so much. She offered to volunteer sorting food and getting orders out to families.

Now, she helps run pantry.

“I just offered to help and it just kind of grew from there,” she said. “It wasn’t really my plan but it was something I grew to love as well,”

Klein helps put in orders to Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin. The food is delivered on Mondays. On Tuesdays, patrons can come pick up their orders.

“I think that’s why I come in day in and day out and I work hard on the orders to make sure we can give people a variety to give people what they want as well as what they need,” Klein said.

Klein says more families are now signed up with the pantry because of the pandemic. She says last year they served anywhere between 25 and 30 families. Now they served about 45. There are also no income restrictions: anyone and everyone can sign up, regardless of their income.

“With how things have progressed with COVID, with how much people need food and the prices of food and the availability is making us very important in the daily lives of people in the area,”

“With the pandemic, it’s the worst. That’s where we picked up a lot of patrons,” said Kathy Ballog. Ballog is also a former patron turned volunteer. She says she first needed a little help after her son passed away.

Volunteers, including Ballog and Klein, keep the Grand Marsh Food Pantry up and running
Volunteers, including Ballog and Klein, keep the Grand Marsh Food Pantry up and running(Tim Elliott)

“I got out of the house,” said Ballog of how volunteering helped her. “I raised his 3 girls and it and just made me feel better,”

She says the people they serve couldn’t be more thankful for the work that they do at the pantry.

“It’s so hard to describe because it is so wonderful. They are appreciative, they are thanking you, they give you hugs, the holidays come and they bake things for us,” added Ballog.

Klein says being able to provide food for people in need is the goal – but being a caring friend, who people can rely on, is what really matters.

“We are a community too and a family and we care about each other,” she said. “I think that is just as important as the food that we have to offer.”

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