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Community spirit at Sussex Outreach Services

June 3, 2014

Sussex — Sussex Outreach Services (SOS) is the epitome of the small town spirit in the Village of Sussex where everyone in the community pitches in to help others.

Created more than 50 years ago by the leaders of the community's six churches, Sussex Outreach Services is a community based, not for profit organization dedicated to helping serve the needs of financially distressed families and individuals in a service area that has approximately the same boundaries as the Hamilton School District.

Headquartered in the basement of the youth center on Silver Spring Drive near its intersection with Main Street, SOS serves an estimated 500 clients a year, individuals and members of families, according to Executive Director Jennifer Waltz.

Waltz said the number of clients who are members of "working poor" families who are earning two pay checks and still cannot make ends meet in eastern Waukesha County is growing.

In addition, there are those families and individuals who are out of work and living below the poverty line, she added.

The core of the outreach service, with its annual budget of about $167,000, is its food pantry, which started during the mid 1980s with a donation of $25,000 from workers at Quad/Graphics.

"The economy was not very good back then and the employees at Quad/Graphics wanted to help out people in the community who didn't have jobs," Waltz explained.

The food pantry is almost exclusively supported by cash and food donations by individuals and organizations within the community, although a recently created "Feeding America" program operated by a nonprofit organization with direct links to Walmart and Target has been providing meats and meat products to the food pantry.

In addition to cash and supplies to help with day-to-day operations of the food pantry and the outreach service, other community organizations also provide for special occasions for the families in needs.

For example, the local Lions Club provides for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. The Lionesses provide Easter baskets for food pantry clients.

The Volunteer Organization of Women of Sussex provide Mother's Day gifts and Halloween costumes.

There are 18 different categories of food which can range from can goods, to fruits and vegetables, to peanut butter and some snacks. The pantry is open three days a week. Each client can visit twice a month.

Each client must be registered. In order to be registered, they must provide a photo ID and proof of residency.

The amount of food distributed to each of the clients can vary from two bags of groceries per visit for an individual or couple to up four bags of groceries for a family with seven or more members.

During the summer months, school age children ranging from 5 to 17 years old, can receive an additional bag of groceries. These additional groceries are intended to take the place of the free lunch and breakfasts they received at school during the school year.

The children's parents or guardians face an additional financial burden during summer months because they have to purchase the food goods to make breakfast and lunch meals normally provided the youngsters during the school year.

However, there is more than food at the food pantry. There is also a supply of clothing and household goods that are available to families or individuals which they can receive at the same time they obtain their food supply.

In addition, the outreach service can provide a family with payments of up to $300 a year to be used to help pay rent or utility bills in the event the family or individual encounters an unanticipated financial crisis, such as the loss of a job.

The outreach service also has a part-time bilingual professional social worker available to provide counseling to clients. The resource center also provides classes and workshops as well as preventive health care services for the clients.

According to Waltz, the clients often get to know each other, and like the rest of the community, are often ready to help their neighbors.

"It's not an usual to see one client providing transportation to the food pantry for another client. Like the rest of the community, they try to help each other out," she concluded.

Information about becoming an outreach service client, providing donations, or offering volunteer help can be obtained at www.sussexareasos.org

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