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Our History

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 the Czerkas’ got to know the residents personally and became familiar with their needs, they also established a small emergency food pantry onsite. Over time, it became apparent more had to be done for Madison’s north side and Dane County.

The Czerkases rented the warehouse on Darwin Road in 2005 and remodeled it to include a large kitchen, bathroom, office space, children’s area, and storage areas. After five months and 3,500 volunteer hours of construction, the pantry opened to the public in March, 2006.

Local businesses and individuals generously provided The River Food Pantry 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, Andy and Jenny’s vision, faith, hard work, dedication and enthusiasm have driven The River to the tremendous success we have had towards ending hunger and building a stronger community for all. It is hard to express sufficient gratitude for all that they have done.

In 2017, The River started a new chapter. After twelve years of tremendous work on behalf of the community served through our mission, our founders Andy and Jenny Czerkas are transitioning to a new chapter in their lives.

Over a year ago we started a journey of discovery to find an Executive Director to lead The River to its next stage of development. The search culminated in the hiring of Charles McLimans as our new leader in April of 2017. The leadership of The River is in very capable hands. Most of you have met Charles McLimans by now and know that he brings vast experience, faith and passion to lead The River in to the future.


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