Letter to the Editor: Final Waukon Community Meal is August 29

To the Editor:

COVID and high food prices have finally done us in. It’s with regrets that I am announcing that Waukon Community Meals is ending. Our final meal will be Monday, August 29 from 5-7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church.

There is no way that I can adequately thank everyone who made this possible. The initial committee members, the Allamakee Ministerial Association, the Lions Club, the First Presbyterian Church and others bought into my idea of creating community meals in 2014. The Allamakee County Dairymen faithfully provided milk and ice cream monthly.

Once we had our plan in place, businesses, banks, organizations, medical and dental groups and individuals all opened their wallets to get us off to a great start.  Others committed to monthly giving.

Our purpose was to build community where anyone who wanted a meal and socializing was welcomed. Our community’s make-up includes all sorts of people and all sorts of ages, and we turned no one away. The meals provided by volunteers and organizations seemed to stretch every month, with an exception or two.

At the beginning of COVID, we were even able to carry on a few months by offering drive-through meals at the city park, which produced its own set of logistical challenges. Some of my initial ideas for the Community Meals were non-starters and others just naturally occurred.

Waukon Community Meals has been blessed with some die-hard committee members who have made it possible for the meals to continue as long as they have. First, a huge thanks to the First Presbyterian Church members for providing such a welcoming, convenient and accessible space. It’s made the difference.

Jane Regan helped us with her insurance advice and Bill Shafer provided us with legal guidance and helped with our 501(c)3 application. Waukon Economic Development allowed us to come under their non-profit status for our first year and, under their direction, our bank account was opened.

Our initial core committee members were Fr. Dubert, Rev. Grant Vandervelden, Pastor Samantha Houser, Pastor Kim Gates, Steve and Robin Oden, Pat Bresnahan, Laureen Iverson, Gerry Schroedel, Lawrence and Marsha Benda, and Pastor Lynn Groe. We were blessed to have Julie VanderVelden step in frequently throughout the years as well. The core of the committee, Grant, Steve, Robin and Kim, have stuck it out with me through thick and thin.  Believe it or not, we can still laugh together.

I’m grateful that we were able to bring in the wider community to sponsor meals as that’s a key piece to creating true community. People often commented how they saw others they hadn’t seen for a while. It was the same for me. Other people were able to eat a meal out once a month and meet friends.

I know I am missing thanking everyone individually, but I do remember and thank you each for keeping Waukon Community Meals going these past years. As I have said often, I absolutely didn’t do this alone. I was the one with the crazy idea and a nagging personality.  It was a group effort every single time. I’m able to treasure memories that still make me smile.

The committee has decided that when we close out our bank account, the remaining funds will go to the Allamakee County Food Bank. That enables us to  continue to feed the broader community as long as we are able.

Karen Carlton