Joy Dreier steps down to recover, shocking volunteers who are working to keep Port organization running
Joy Dreier, who has served as administrator of the Port Washington Food Pantry for much of its existence, resigned from her post last week.
“It shocked a lot of people,” her husband Bob said of her sudden resignation, which he said was prompted by health concerns.
Joy Dreier was stricken with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) while visiting family in Florida two weeks ago, her husband said.
Just two days after she arrived in Naples, Mrs. Dreier woke up to find she had no strength, he said.
“She couldn’t stand up,” he said. “She had no feeling in her hands or feet, no strength, no nothing.”
Mrs. Dreier went to a clinic for tests, then was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with CIDP, her husband said.
“She’s doing really well,” he said Monday. “She feels stronger. She has feeling back in her hands. She’s walking with a walker.”
Her spirits, he said, are good.
“She’s so jovial on the phone,” Mr. Dreier said.
But, he said, it will take some time for his wife to fully recover, and for that reason she resigned from the Food Pantry.
“She said, ‘I still want to stay with the Food Pantry, but I won’t be able to do everything I have been,’” said her husband, who is the president of the Food Pantry Board of Directors.
Longtime volunteer Cathy Schowalter is taking over in her place until the board appoints a new director, Mr. Dreier said.
In the meantime, the staff is busy transferring Mrs. Dreier’s records for the pantry onto a computer, he said.
“Joy kept everything by hand on 4-by-6 cards,” he said. “She’s telling me where everything is.”
Whoever takes Mrs. Dreier’s place “will have big shoes to fill, or rather a big heart,” Schowalter said. “She’s an amazing administrator and truly a great example and inspiration to the many volunteers who make the Food Pantry run week by week.”
The clients of the pantry find themselves in difficult circumstances, she added, “and Mrs. Dreier makes sure everyone is treated with compassion and respect.”
Mrs. Dreier has been with the Food Pantry since 1982 and has become its public face, working to drum up support when needed and to draw attention to the problems of people in need in Ozaukee County.
While the pantry is only open on Tuesdays, Mrs. Dreier handled its business seven days a week, Schowalter said, doing everything from ordering supplies to appearing before community groups to raise awareness.
The Food Pantry has about 50 active volunteers and a waiting list of those who want to help, Mr. Dreier said, adding none of the staff is paid.
The organization, which is supported by 14 area churches, helps about 160 families a week, he said, although the number varies significantly depending on the time of year.
It could be March before a new administrator is named, Mr. Dreier said.
But Mrs. Dreier, who is out of the hospital and in a rehabilitation center, is expected to return to Port Washington on Friday night. The couple’s daughter Sandra Dreier flew to Florida on Wednesday and will accompany her mother home.
Her prospects for recovery are good, her husband said. Generally, if CIDP is caught within seven days, the prognosis is good, he said, and Mrs. Dreier was diagnosed in five days.
“Every day she’s getting better and better,” he said.
Image information: PORT WASHINGTON Food Pantry Administrator Joy Dreier packed boxes of food in 2008. Press file photo