WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Asking for help can be hard, especially if you’ve never needed it before. Unfortunately, the pandemic has put a lot of people into economic hardship.
“We have over 10% of our school students that meet the eligibility for being economically disadvantaged,” said Kristin Pelot, a social worker in Wauwatosa.
That realization led Pelot and her friend, Molly Courseault to create a food bank where people can get help anonymously.
They set it up right outside the Wauwatosa Montessori School. All of the non-perishable food goes into several large, plastic bins.
“This is kind of our canned goods. Be it soup, vegetables,” Courseault said, lifting the lid off of one bin. ” We have cereal. We have pasta.”
She admits, she’s a bit of a neat freak. So when you look inside the bins, everything is organized.
“I come every day and kind of arrange it, and group things together,” she said.
The two women came up with the idea a few months ago, when the pandemic started and they saw a similar food bank at another school.
“Food insecurity for many families is a harsh reality, but especially in times of crisis,” Courseault said.
Pelot wanted to make it easy for people to get what they need.
“Not having to go through any red tape was really what our goal was,” she said, “So that people in need can get it right away.”
And that’s just what this food bank provides. People can come and pick up what they need, any time of day.
“We try to cover all of the basics,” Courseault said, showing rolls of toilet paper at the end of one bin.
It’s a good fit, since the friends both have a background in social work.
“I actually had a professor in college that taught me that social work is everywhere,” Pelot said.
Both women have children that went to the Montessori school, so they got permission from the school district and it took off from there.
“It was really her brain child and once I heard about it, I jumped on board and offered my help,” Courseault said of Pelot.
Lots of other people are now jumping in to help, too.
“There's a certain group of people who've become regular donors, and they just take it upon themselves to come and check in,” Courseault said, “And before we know it, it's restocked without us even having to do or say anything.”
Courseault sends out updates using the neighborhood social media pages.
“I had no idea, that power of social media,” she said. “Once the word got out, I was constantly approached, like how can I contribute, where is it located?”
When a local family lost everything in a fire, they decided to also expand their efforts to include clothes for all ages and sizes. They also have face masks and plastic gloves.
“In fact, it's been kind of a family affair,” Courseault said.
Between the two families, they’ve made more than 2,000 masks. Courseault’s daughter holds the record for fastest mask making—clocking in at just 18 seconds.
“Nine times out of 10 they're on board with my various projects,” she said of her daughters. “It's really nice because it's been a family affair and they've helped out tremendously.”
The women hope the project grows further, too.
“I think it'd be a good lesson in helping out the community,” Pelot said.
They would like to see the Montessori students get involved when they’re back in class, gaining experience in running a non-profit.
“It really instills in them that we are not alone in this world. And I think that, more than ever, it's a very important lesson for kids to learn,” Courseault said.
There are also vegetable gardens on the property, so who knows what could be next.
“If everything goes as planned, we might have some produce to include in the food pantry,” said Courseault.
It’s an important lesson in giving for their kids and the community.
“We just ask that people share what they can and take what they need,” Pelot said. “So that's it, that's all.”
The food bank is located outside the Wauwatosa Montessori School at 12121 W. North Ave. in Wauwatosa.