On the outskirts of Oconto Falls, Wisconsin, a town of less than 3,000 people, Arlene Blaser and her husband, Allen, have been farming for about 40 years. Their son and his wife are starting to take over day-to-day operations, and Arlene is happy to say she’s quit milking cows after doing so for 45 years. And she had been looking at ways to get off the farm and give back to her community.
About five years ago, she started volunteering at the Oconto Falls Food Pantry, and for the past two years, she’s been using Land O’Lakes Direct Member Matches to supplement her donations.
Direct Member Matches are available to all direct members, and they match dollar-for-dollar the cash donations made by member producers (up to $500), doubling the funds available for hometown projects aimed at alleviating hunger, supporting education and building communities. There is also a Member Co-op Match program available. More information on all member matches is available under the Community Involvement section on the Members homepage.
Arlene’s volunteerism and donations are both alleviating hunger and building up her community.
“I first started volunteering at the food pantry because one of our friends had been going there on Mondays to help sort produce,” says Arlene. “I thought it was a good chance to get off the farm.”
Now that she’s been there five years, she’s been able to work most of the shifts – sorting produce, helping with packaging and cooling the meats and even working as a walker.
“A walker is a person who helps the person walk through the pantry and figure out what they need,” says Arlene.
Once she understood that the Member Match program could help her supplement a monetary donation, Arlene took it to heart and did one in both 2016 and 2017. "I think if people are willing to donate money, and if Land O'Lakes is willing to match it, to me it's a no-brainer," says Arlene. “I had been sending cash donations anyway, before, so if the food pantry can benefit from it, then that gives us that much more to give back to the community.”
Combine the donations with her volunteerism, and it’s easy to see Arlene is making a tangible impact in her rural community. She may not be milking cows day-to-day, but she’s finding important ways to make a difference with that newfound time. Whether it’s packaging produce or just getting to know the people coming in and learning their stories, a little bit of time, effort and compassion can make a huge difference in people’s lives.
"At the food pantry, you can see, these people do really need it," she says. "And I truly enjoy helping. You get home that night, you're tired, but you did something good."