Private donation for Covid relief helps food, educational programs in Dunn County

Stepping Stones was recently among the recipients of much-needed funding for the food pantry. Last week, Jim Haemmerle (seen here) stopped by Stepping Stones with a bouquet of balloons and a special cake to present a generous check on behalf of the Community Foundation of Dunn County.

Here’s the story that ran in The Dunn County News on Nov. 4, 2o20: 

The Dunn County COVID-19 Relief Fund granted $20,000 among five local nonprofit organizations, thanks to a generous donation from Jim and Gail Haemmerle. This fund is a partnership between the Community Foundation of Dunn County and the United Way of Dunn County in response to the urgent needs of the community following the start of the pandemic earlier this year.

The nonprofit recipients for this non-competitive grant cycle are Stepping Stones of Dunn County ($14,000), the Boys & Girls Club—Menomonie Center ($1,000), the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association ($1,000), Feed by People Food Bank ($3,000) and Literacy Chippewa Valley ($1,000).

As one of Dunn County’s most significant food pantry and shelter providers, Stepping Stones has seen a great increase in community need for basics since COVID-19. Executive Director Padraig Gallagher said most of the grant will go toward their food pantry program.

“Community support has been great and we can certainly use more contributions towards our food pantry and shelter programs,” Gallagher said. “Winter is coming and each day of COVID impact sees more families in our community using up the last of their savings. A lot of people are in need.”

Feed My People Food Bank is in a similar position as well and will use their grant towards purchasing food for their emergency bags/boxes, which are critical in meeting the increased needs in Dunn County, as well as Pepin County.

“This support will allow us to offer emergency bags to local pantries at no charge, eliminate the needs of volunteers to pre-pack boxes and also allow the pantries to put the emergency bags directly into the trunk of their guests to ensure a safe distribution,” Executive Director Nancy Renkes said.

In regards to educational needs, Literacy Chippewa Valley continues its English Language Learning (ELL) for inmates but has moved mostly to online learning. The funds helped cover a Zoom subscription as well as a consultant to assist in setting up the inmates with the proper technology and knowledge needed to connect for their classes.

“We express our sincere gratitude for this grant,” Executive Director Elizabeth Hart said. “Funding wise, we are stable but were not able to do our fundraiser this year, which brings in about 20 percent of our revenue. We did do an online version, which was half the size and half the revenue. We also cannot collect our contract money from the jails at this time, so this grant helps maintain this program.”

Literacy Chippewa Valley’s ELL program currently has 35 students, 10 of whom meet 1-on-1 with a tutor in person, with the remaining students attending virtually.

Basic needs in Dunn County are constant and organizations are continuing to see an increase in needs due to the pandemic. Donations can be made to the Dunn County COVID-19 Relief Fund by visiting or by calling the CFDC at 715-232-8019.

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