Before The River Food Pantry opened its doors in 2006, its founders Andy and Jenny Czerkas, along with countless volunteers, partnered and organized monthly dinners at the Northport and Packer communities along Northport Drive. As they got to know the residents personally and became familiar with their needs, the founders also established a small emergency food pantry onsite. In 2005, a warehouse on Darwin Road was rented and remodeled to include a large kitchen, bathroom, office space, children’s area, and storage areas. After months of construction and over 3,500 volunteer hours, The River opened to the public in March 2006.
Local businesses and individuals generously provided The River with donations of building materials, shelving, kitchen appliances, and startup finances. Much of the physical content of the pantry is “Recycled Madison.” The serving counters are remodeled nurse’s stations from the former Methodist/Meriter Hospital. The doors and windows are also from the hospital. The pantry shelving is from the former Kmart and Cub West Food Store. The new pantry was outfitted with new and much-improved electrical service. The electrical components were also donated, as was all the skilled installation work.
Since the beginning, The River has focused on ending hunger and building a stronger community for all. Year to year, The River has expanded its services to ultimately offer free groceries, meals, clothing, household items, and mobile lunches to children and teens on non-school days. As our services grew, so did our community of volunteers, donors, partners and clients. Originally serving only a handful of families per week, today The River serves over 1,000 households per week, and counting.
In 2017, The River transitioned leadership from the founders to Charles McLimans. As President & CEO, McLimans has committed to advancing The River to its next stage of development.
Throughout 2018, The River worked with hundreds of individuals from across all of our stakeholder groups to develop a strategic plan that frames how The River will pursue a vision where everyone in Dane County is nourished in body, mind and spirit. The plan includes updated mission and vision statements, enhanced core values, specific guiding principles, and a holistic services philosophy. The plan also outlines key aspirations and goals for the future, such as doubling our space and further expanding services.
The River is excited to continue building a stronger community together. We invite you to share in our vision of a fully nourished community.