In the small town of Bloomfield, Wisconsin, empathy and generosity thrive, and those who have come upon difficult times are welcomed and nurtured, not only with food, but also with compassion, concern and genuine care.
In 2007, local residents Jeanne Cizon and the late Sandy Steinhoff opened the Pell Lake St. Mary’s Memorial Food Pantry, a 501c(3) organization that operates solely on donations and the generosity of the community.
Jeanne explains that after the St. Mary Catholic Church food pantry closed due to the church merging with another, individuals were coming to the two women saying that people in the community were struggling to make ends meet. Sandy and Cizon saw a need, and the two reinstated the food pantry in honor of their beloved church, renaming it Pell Lake St. Mary Memorial Food Pantry.
Jeanne Cizon remains the head organizer of the St. Mary’s Memorial Food Pantry, while Sandy’s husband, Bill Steinhoff, stayed on as treasurer and secretary for the organization, which strives to serve the person in need, not merely their situation.
“My wife was a person whose purpose in life was to care for people… and [her compassion] rubbed off on me to do just the same,” Bill says with a smile.
The St. Mary’s Memorial Food Pantry has been serving the community of Bloomfield and the surrounding areas of Kenosha, Racine, and Northern Illinois for nearly 11 years. Their hard work and dedication is reflected in the number of individuals and families that walk through their doors, which is estimated to be a couple hundred individuals in any given week.
“I believe our pantry attracts more people because we see the person for who they are – not the situation they are currently in. We care about them, offer kind and understanding conversation, and treat them like family,” Cizon states.
Helping Hands in the Local Community
Al Janiec, owner of Bloomfield Tire & Auto, offers a room in his facility free of charge to the food pantry. His building provides the much-needed space required to house shelves of produce, canned goods, and toiletries for the food pantry.
Like the rest of the community, Janiec is kind-hearted. He saw a need, and he filled it.
“I [donate the space] because it is the right thing to do and it is important to our community,” Janiec explains. “The food pantry makes a big difference in our local community and this is my way of giving back.”
St. Mary’s Memorial Food Pantry truly demonstrates the spirit of giving that is so prevalent in the community today, from the volunteers who spend time with those who walk through the pantry doors and who treat strangers as friends, to individuals donating their space as well as much needed food items. Cizon and Steinhoff offer compassion and encouragement, and in return, have the pleasure of witnessing the success stories as well as the repaid generosity from those who have been given support through their own difficult times.
The Pell Lake St. Mary Memorial Food Pantry is open Mondays and Fridays from 9am – 11am and Wednesdays from 3pm – 5pm. Donations can be sent to Pell Lake St. Mary Memorial Food Pantry at N1238 Park Road, P.O. Box 262 in Pell Lake, WI 53157. For more information contact the food pantry at 262.279.6333.
By: Tricia Carzoli