Feeling the Need

Mabel Peterson has been managing the Koinonia Kupboard at First Baptist Church of Sister Bay for more than two decades.

Northern Door Food Pantries

Koinonia Kupboard is a food pantry at First Baptist Church of Sister Bay that has been helping residents of Northern Door County since the 1980s.

Koinonia is an Anglicized form of a Greek word that means intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.

“Sharing. That’s what its all about,” said Mabel Peterson, who has been managing the pantry since about 1990. “It isn’t our food pantry. It’s the community food pantry, but it’s here at First Baptist.”

“When people continue to bring us food. We’re happy to share,” added her daughter, Winnie Jackson, who serves as the administrative aid at the church. “This would be a tough sell if we didn’t have all the community support from other churches and individuals.”

“It feels good to be helping people,” Mabel added.

Mabel said she has seen an increasing need, particularly among senior citizens, single mothers and young families with unexpected bills. On average, eight to 10 people a week use the Koinonia Pantry.

“We see people where both husband and wife work, and they have an emergency,” Mabel said.

“We’re the safety net,” Winnie added. “We will provide food so you can take your money and pay bills.”

She added that the end of the month they see more people on fixed incomes who need the pantry.

“When property taxes are due, we can almost always figure there will be greater needs at that time. Perhaps around the holidays,” she said.

Those in need are allowed two bags of food a week. There is no screening process, but they prefer to serve Northern Door residents since that is where the donations come from.

Heidi Penchoff stocks the 24/7 food pantry in the foyer of the Door of Life Church in Sister Bay.

In addition to donations from other area churches and individuals, both women said Sister Bay Piggly Wiggly Manager Jay Kita has been a good friend to the food pantry, providing day-old breads and canned goods.

“Jay has been very good to us,” Mabel said. “If there’s a small dent or the label is ripped, he’ll give it to us. This summer he brought eight banana boxes full of stuff they couldn’t use.”

The two area food drives – the postal workers’ Stamp Out Hunger in the spring and the Boy Scouts’ Scouting for Food in the fall – keep the pantry well stocked, but Mabel said there is always a need for personal care products – soap, shampoo, toilet paper, facial tissue.

“It’s there and it’s gone,” she said. “It’s amazing the turnover on personal care products. Many people give us money, so we’ve been buying personal care products, but if someone wants to donate that…”

Koinonia Kupboard is open Tuesday through Thursday, 10 am to 4 pm. For more information, contact Winnie at 920.854.2544.


Door of Life Food Pantry, Door of Life Christian Church, Sister Bay

This no-questions-asked food pantry has been operating for three years out of a church utility closet.

“We saw a need,” said Heidi Penchoff, pantry administrator. “It started because somebody came to us after she’d gone to another food pantry and they went checking to see if she really needed anything. She was just horrified, and we were horrified. It’s hard enough to ask for help, and then to be humiliated in the process. Our basic rule is, there are no rules, a little like Fight Club. There’s no criteria. No questions. No limits. Come clear it out if you want.”

Penchoff said she has noticed more people needing help putting food on the table.

“We really are meeting a lot of needs of people who are falling through the cracks. It’s really across the board and it doesn’t look like it used to,” she said. “What I have really noticed is that it used to be a little bit more seasonal, especially out of the Northern Door end. It was the off-season when people needed the help. I would say since last year, it is now year-round. Families where you have two parents working two and three jobs and they are struggling.”

She said there are also a lot of senior citizens in need.

George Wentz separates donated food before stocking the shelves at Feed My People/Clothe My People in Sturgeon Bay. Wentz has stocked shelves at the food pantry for four years and has noticed more people with a need for such support and a continually generous community.

The pantry remains stocked thanks to church members and the larger community.

“It’s so encouraging to see,” Penchoff said. “We can get down to a couple cans of soup, and the next time I’m in there, it’s filled. We’re a pretty small church, but we really step into that and take care of it.”

People who bring items to sell at Julie’s Upscale Resale, where Penchoff also works, are able to choose to donate the items to benefit either the food pantry or the Door County Humane Society.

“We actually get some money that way, and use it to buy fresh food for a family in need. We supplement the dry goods in the cupboard with fresh food,” she said.

With the desire to help those in need without intruding into their lives, Penchoff said the church has added shelving in the church foyer so the needy can help themselves.

“It’s open 24/7, so people can come and go without even needing to interact with anyone if they don’t want to, or if the need arises at odd hours,” she said.

To donate nonperishable food items, call the church at 920.421.1525.


Southern Door Food Pantries

Every donation is appreciated at the Door County Community Resource Program, also known as Feed My People – Clothe My People Food Pantry in Sturgeon Bay.

“Our shelves get so bare sometimes I have a hard time putting pantries together,” said pantry coordinator Ashley Madson. “There’s a great need for food and there has been a greater need recently.”

She said two annual food drives help tremendously in keeping the shelves stocked – the National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive in May and the fall Scouting for Food Drive held by the Boy Scouts of America.

“Each of those gets us through for a few months. Between them we get real low,” Madson said.

In between those two big food drives, the pantry relies on the generosity of the community to keep shelves stocked.

“We get food and money donations,” Madson said. “The money helps us buy the milk, eggs, meats and we buy some canned foods as well. Every donation is appreciated.”

The pantry also compiles a list of needy families that will get a turkey for Christmas, and hams for Easter.

“We did 156 turkeys last year,” Madson said. “Depending on the size of the families, if there are seven, eight, nine people, they get two turkeys.”

The pantry is next door to the Clothe My People Thrift Store. Sales from the thrift store also help keep the free food program going.

Madson said anyone wishing to use the food pantry just has to call (920.743.9053).

“It’s open to the public and we do everything over the phone,” she said. “We ask income, how many in household and bring in proof of address.”

George Wentz has been stocking the food pantry shelves for four years. He checks incoming food for expiration dates and stocks shelves just as they do in grocery stores.

“There is an increasing need for food, and I commend the community for their generosity,” Wentz said.


Lakeshore Community Action Program operates the largest food pantry in Door County out of their building at 131 S. 3rd Avenue in Sturgeon Bay. Eligibility is based on monthly household income. An individual/family can pick up free perishable and nonperishable food once per month. Hours are Tuesday and Thursday 11 am – 4 pm. 
Call 920.743.0192.

The Holy Name Parish in Maplewood also runs a food pantry that is open from 10 am to noon on the first, third and fifth Saturdays of each month. For more information, call the parish office at 920.856.6440.