Cramped food pantry may have found new home

Organization to stay in village but move to larger facility in former Tri-Par building to help it meet growing need
Ozaukee Press staff

Shelves of food, diapers and other household necessities will move from the Parkside Community Church basement to the Tri-Par building, at the corner of South Main Street and Green Bay Avenue, as the Saukville Food Pantry hopes to relocate within the village.

“We’re not short on supplies; the supplies come and go,” the pantry’s Executive Director Mark Gierach said. “I can expand my programs and give more food out. In reality, it’s a matter of having space to put the food.”

After starting in January 2012, the pantry has outgrown its 6,000-square-foot home and needs an upgrade. Gierach said the Tri-Par building is roughly 15,000 square feet, giving the pantry ample space to store products and put on community events.

The idea of moving came two years ago as Covid-19 furthered financial difficulties. However, Gierach didn’t expect it to move so fast.

“Moving came into thought about two years ago but we didn’t think it would move this fast,” Gierach said. “With Covid lingering effects on the economy, more people have found out we’re here and what we do.”

The rise of inflation and gas prices has only furthered the financial burden on Ozaukee County residents. Increased need is evident by the number of new customers doubling this June and July compared to  the same months in 2021. Despite five months remaining in 2022, the pantry has already surpassed its 2021 total numbers for senior citizens (132% higher) and veterans (331.5% higher).

“The economy’s not healthy right now,” Gierach said.

The June 2022 annual inflation rate was 9.1% while June 2021 was roughly 6.4%, according to the United States Department of Labor Statistics.

The economy is also making the pantry’s move difficult, Gierach said. The pantry has a verbal agreement to purchase the Tri-Par building but financial questions remain. Despite the economic adversity, Gierach is confident something will pan out.

“We have a capital campaign committee that is talking to various people and writing some grants,” Gierach said. “We’re talking with the county and they’re going to come up with an application process for some of the American Rescue Plan Act funds they have. We’re hoping to work with them on that. Then we’ll go to the greater community and ask for their support as well.”

The county’s American Rescue Plan Act funds are sought after by several other groups, including the Town of Saukville which hopes to receive funds to improve its broadband service. Additionally, $5 million of the County’s $17.3 million received in ARPA funds are allocated to emergency medical services.

The pantry partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to create the new building’s architectural plans to get the most out of the space. Maintaining programming beyond the typical food pantry remains a priority, so having a space for community meals and events like the Back to School Fair needed to be reflected in its planning.

Final architectural plans are expected by Sept. 1, and a signed property sale agreement is expected by the end of the year, Gierach said. If all goes well Tri-Par building renovations will begin in early 2023 with a grand opening in late 2023 or early 2024.

The Tri-Par building has been a longstanding staple in the Saukville community, Gierach said, and he wants to continue its legacy. Once a leather book company transformed to a gas station, Gierach hopes to preserve its history moving forward.

“We want to do some pictorial things to display the history of the building and possibly do some murals on the inside,” Gierach said. “Maybe even some of the mural paintings on the outside of the building that will depict not just the building, but also parts of Saukville through the years.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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