BARABOO — Beyond Blessed Pantry wants to make sure everyone has something to eat.
Unlike other food pantries, the Baraboo based 501©(3) independent nonprofit doesn’t have boundaries such as income, location or attendance restrictions that may limit one’s access to help when falling on hard times.
“We want to make sure if people need food we can supply it,” said Shannon Howley, the pantry’s president/executive director.
The pantry is open four days out of the month, from 5-6 p.m. on the first Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday. If Wisconsin Dells School District cancels school, the pantry will not open. Attendees can drop by more than one day per month because there are not attendance restrictions, Howley said.
The pantry serves over 200 households in Sauk, Columbia, Adams and Juneau County. Howley said those people come from the Wisconsin Dells, Lake Delton, Baraboo, Reedsburg, Lyndon Station, Mauston and the Sauk Prairie area.
She said about 90% of the people who attend the pantry are under the federal poverty income limits.
“We’re here to serve them, we’re here to love on them,” Howley said. “That’s what we are here to do.”
Howley shared stories of people who have been helped by Beyond Blessed Pantry, including one being able to keep their house and another who once chose between food and medication. It’s why the pantry doesn’t have restrictions other food pantries may have.
“People shouldn’t have to make that choice,” Howley said. “Food is such a basic necessity and some people don’t have the ability to do that on their own.”
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She estimates the pantry distributes over 10,000 pounds of food a month while 50 volunteers monthly help distribute to those in need, Howley said. Volunteer June Selk described the pantry as “an island in the sea” providing help to those who need it. She’s been volunteering at the pantry for over three years.
The pantry started in 2016 as Bridgepoint Pantry out of a church in the downtown Wisconsin Dells. In 2018, it moved to its now current location at S4066 County Highway BD Baraboo and changed the name to Beyond Blessed Pantry.
Howley said the pantry conducts food pickups from local grocery stores four times a week and purchases food from local grocery stores and Second Harvest to gather what it needs for the week.
“A lot of what you see is donated,” she said.
Because the pantry is an independent non-profit it runs strictly on donations, not government assistance. All expenses from rent to lights and food purchases all come from donations from partners and individuals, she said. Howley said there are not any paid staff at the pantry, including her own position. She works part-time as a nurse, she said.
She said Beyond Blessed Pantry mainly conducts fundraisers and applies for grants to raise money and the pantry is looking for partners, either individuals or businesses, to donate monthly.
Howley’s caring nature is something she’s had all her life. Besides serving as a nurse, she said wanting to help the hungry and homeless is a passion she’s had since she was little growing up in Stoughton.