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Baking up holiday blessings
Volunteers gather on Monday in the RV garage of Monroe’s Rick Maliszewski to pack bags for “The Baker’s Dozen” giveaway that provides needy families with something special to cook up for the holidays. - photo by Gary Mays

MONROE — A giving spirit in the community is one reason Micky Beam wanted to move back to Monroe, after some time traveling around the United States in recent years.

And she didn’t waste any time getting started — volunteering recently through her local Kiwanis chapter for “The Baker’s Dozen” initiative, which provides vital baking items to over 300 families just when they need them most.

“I’m retired now but one of the reasons I wanted to come back to Monroe was the giving spirit,” Beam said, as she joined volunteers on a sunny day to fill bags for needy residents. “In Monroe people take care of each other.”

The baking related items, in particular, are rarely available at food panties and help families access some “baked goodness in their lives” during the holidays, according to Rick Maliszewski, who helps spearhead the effort, which began in 2019 but experienced a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now in its second year, “The Bakers Dozen” is needed even more, organizers say, as food prices have skyrocketed.

The goods — ranging from flour to frosting — are distributed through the local food pantries from Argyle to Brodhead. Several local service organizations, companies and individuals helped or financially supported the program’s food budget. This year they will spend about $20 per bag with an overall budget in the $6,300 range — up considerably from the first season’s roughly $4,000 tab.

As a result of their work, the Green County Food Pantry in Monroe, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Monroe, and Green Cares Food Pantry in Monticello are slated to get baker bags. Those food pantries, along with others groups, are able to serve anyone living in Green County including Monroe, Monticello, Albany, New Glarus, Juda, Argyle, and Brodhead.

Still, the program, organizers say, is not immune to soaring inflation.

“Our dry goods cost exceeds $6,300 being approximately $20.00 per bag,” said Maliszewsk, in a fundraising letter to the community. “Eggs and butter are also needed but our funds are inadequate to cover the extra cost estimated at $2,600.”

Donations can be sent to CFSW, PO Box 733, Monroe, WI  53566. For more information about the effort call 608-558-1225.