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Retired Dubuque sisters volunteer at food pantry

August 4, 2018

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Sisters Rita Reicher and Mary Weidemann have been feeding Dubuque’s children for years.

Reicher, 79, previously worked as a baker at the former St. Joseph the Worker School for 13 years. Weidemann, 75, served lunch in the Dubuque Community School District for about 25 years.

Now retired, the two volunteer with the Dubuque Food Pantry as part of the organization’s free summer lunch program for youngsters.

The food pantry offers a free lunch Monday through Friday for children younger than 18. Each lunch includes a sandwich, juice and milk, as well as a variety of other healthy snack options and treats kids pick out themselves.

“I think it’s really good that they can get something nutritious and a sandwich,” said Reicher.

Theresa Caldwell, manager of the food pantry, said this is the first summer they’ve held the program five days per week. Previously, they didn’t serve on Thursdays.

The program serves about 70 kids each day, though Caldwell wants to see that number grow. Any leftover lunch items go with kids on Fridays to give them extra food for the weekend, the Telegraph Herald reported.

Caldwell said they used to give kids prepackaged lunches, but switched to a build-your-own system to ensure no food is wasted.

“That way, they can pick out what they like,” she said.

Reicher started with the lunch program about one year ago, and soon talked her sister into helping out. Weidemann said she still substitutes as a lunch worker at the school district, but she was looking for other ways to get out of her home.

She enjoys meeting the kids and seeing regulars.

“Everybody is different and interesting,” she said.

Stacy Stechman, of Dubuque, said she has been coming to the lunch program for a few years. She said it helps with summer grocery bills for her family of five kids.

Stechman said her kids look forward to the trips because of all of the friendly volunteers.

″(The volunteers) get to know everyone’s name, and the kids enjoy coming,” she said.

Both Reicher and Weidemann said they have made new friends through volunteering at the pantry, and it’s another way for the sisters to get together each week. Weidemann said after their husbands died, the two became much closer.

Reicher said she helps out in other ways at the food pantry year-round, and she also delivers food for Meals on Wheels. She’s been connected to volunteering through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program at UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital, a program she recommends to others.

“You should get out (and volunteer),” she said. “It breaks the boredom. It gives you a reason to get out of bed and you can help people.”

Caldwell said the food pantry is always looking for new volunteers.


Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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