RHINELANDER (WAOW) – Hundreds of needy families use the Personal Essentials Pantry – better known as PEP – in Rhinelander every year.
"What we do is try to help our friends and neighbors in need," said Barbara Oestreicher, the founder and the recipient of the April Jefferson Award for her devotion to volunteering.
Housed in First United Methodist Church, PEP helps more than 700 families with tight budgets get cleaning supplies and personal care items.
"These are items that are not not covered by the Foodshare program," Oestreicher said. "It helps these families when they can get free items and they don’t have to use budget dollars for these necessities."
For example, PEP means families don’t have to make a choice between buying toilet paper or buying diapers or diapers or food, she said.
Oestreicher’s duties have included everything from writing grants and organizing fundraisers to shopping for supplies and bagging them for the needy.
"We broke down her responsibilities into 11 jobs. She and just a few others have held this together for 10 years," said Dixie Mathews, the new chairperson of the PEP Board.
Oestreicher is now training others to take over some of those chores – her way of making sure needs in the community continue to be met.
Most of the people helped by PEP are from Rhinelander and surrounding communities and some are "very needy," Mathews said. The help they get "makes a difference and that’s what we are all about."
The pantry receives broad support and donations from the community, including the United Way, service groups, area stores and various people.
"Last year, about $19,000 came in. One hundred percent of the monetary donations go to buy products," Oestreicher said. "It is doing good."