Karen Palluconi: Enthusiastic Love Life Volunteer

Originally published by Decided Excellence Catholic Media in Green Bay Parish Neighbors

Article by Joan Koehne | Photo by Timothy Mayer Artworks

Karen Palluconi, retired teacher and volunteer at Love Life Ministry

In her first teaching assignment after graduating from UW-Stevens Point, Karen Palluconi’s life was filled with new experiences. She met so many new people during that first year, but one really stood out. Karen met her husband-to-be, Mike, in the teacher’s lounge at Roosevelt School on their first in-service day. Karen and Mike, members of Nativity of Our Lord Parish, were married in 1971 at Karen’s hometown parish. Both are retired teachers.

Living her Catholic Fatih

Faith has always been a huge part of Karen’s life.

“It is the factor that gets me through the challenges of life – disappointments and tragedies. It also reminds me to appreciate the joys and the blessings that we have,” she said.

Volunteering at Nativity Parish

Karen enjoys volunteering in many different capacities. She previously served on the Nativity of Our Lord Parish Council, Family Life Commission, Social Concerns Ministry, and Faith Formation Committee and currently is involved with the Living Justice Ministry. She is an active member of the Women’s Guild, chairperson of the Giving Tree ministry for nursing home/assisted living and the homebound from the parish, and an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

Volunteering at Love Life Ministries

Since 2010, Karen has volunteered at Love Life Ministries, an ecumenical outreach ministry which provides diapers, baby clothes, layettes, and other childcare items to families in Brown County that are struggling financially. Additionally, Karen and Mike volunteer through the ADRC (Aging and Disability Resource Center) delivering Meals on Wheels. Previously, Karen volunteered for the Back to School Store, Coats for Kids, and Nativity Faith Formation classes as a fifth-grade catechist.

Spending Retirement by Giving to Others

“I love volunteering,” Karen said. “I am retired, so I have the luxury of time to devote to more volunteer activities.” Karen’s parents, who were actively involved in the parish and community, set an example for her to follow.

“Since I have been retired, I was looking for activities to fill my time and realized there are a lot of organizations that need volunteer help,” she said. “Volunteering is one of those things that gives a reward to the receiver and the giver.”

Enjoying a Teaching Career and Hobbies

Karen taught in the Green Bay school system for 33 years, at Roosevelt School, Fort Howard School, Helen Keller School, and Martin Luther King School. She taught fifth grade for most of her career. In retirement, she enjoys reading, cooking, walking, hiking, geocaching, crossword puzzles and crypto quotes, and traveling in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. She is a fan of the Packers, Brewers, Badgers, and Ashwaubenon High School teams.

Spending Time with Family

The Palluconis’ two daughters, sons-in-law and four grandchildren live in the Minneapolis area, and Karen and Mike see them as often as possible. Sarah and Mike are the parents of Jaelyn, 14, and Mason, 12. Korinne and Chad are the parents of Evan, 14, and Mia, 11. They are avid fans of their grandsons’ hockey teams and enjoy watching their granddaughters’ dance performances.

“We went to Disney World with them in 2018, and the past two years we have rented a cabin in northern Wisconsin where we spent a long weekend enjoying water activities and sharing meals together.” Karen said.

Attending Mass & Praying Daily

The Palluconis believe that everything is better with God at their side. Karen and Mike attend Mass regularly, and they read the daily Mass readings on the days when they don’t attend in person. Karen’s favorite prayers are the Hail Mary and the Memorare.

“Mary had an incredible faith in God, and she is a remarkable role model,” Karen said.

In difficult times, Karen turns to prayer.

Accepting God’s Will in Her Life

“Yes, there have been challenges, but praying and realizing that I need to accept God’s will has helped me,” Karen said. “It has made me a more-faith filled and giving person.” Karen also trusts that “God never gives us more than we can handle,” even when she experienced moments in life when this promise was difficult to believe.

“But when I look back on some of the difficult times in my life, I realize that things work out, and God knows what is best for us. God does answer prayers – not always the way we envision, but in a manner that is for the best,” she said.

Love Life Volunteer: Making Friends & Promoting Childhood Safety

Bonnie Fonferek, volunteer at Love Life Ministries

Hi, I’m Bonnie Fonferek, and I started volunteering at Love Life Ministries in March of 2023. I’m a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Howard, WI, where I’m a member of the parish Social Concerns Committee. Jackie Walker, who passed away in February 2023, was an active member of the Social Concerns Committee and also was a volunteer at Love Life for many years. After her passing, I decided to take her place as a volunteer at Love Life. I knew I had big shoes to fill!

As a Love Life volunteer, I wash the donated clothes. I also attend Center for Childhood Safety meetings to keep Love Life informed of best practices regarding childhood safety. The Center for Childhood Safety helps families and communities keep kids safe from injuries. The Green Bay, WI, organization is a source of safety education and programming in Northeast Wisconsin.

Volunteering at Love Life Ministries has been a great experience. I really enjoy the friendships I’m developing with all the wonderful, hardworking volunteers at Love Life. Want to join us? Love Life Ministries accepts new volunteers from all walks of life. Contact us to learn more.

20-Year Volunteer: Giving is the Best Part of Life

Love Life Ministry Volunteer

Hello, my name is Linda VanPay. I have been volunteering at Love Life Ministries for about 20 years. I originally started by laundering the baby clothing that people donated.

Also, some men from the Green Bay Correctional Institution volunteered to make baby receiving blankets back then. I decided that I could do them a little better. So, I started making the receiving blankets, along with burp cloths. I sew the baby blankets and burp clothes multiple times a year.

I always go to Joann Fabric in November when they have Black Friday Sales to get the best price on the flannel fabric. I buy 10 to 15 bolts of flannel, and Love Life reimburses me for the purchase.

I love doing this, and it is rewarding to me to be able to do it. I’m grateful that God gave me the ability to do the things I do and that I can be helpful to others.

Rita Dufour: Blessed to Be a Pantry Volunteer

I have been a volunteer at the pantry for about 10 years. I’m a member of St. Norbert College Parish. I sing in the choir and I am active in a number of parish ministries. I was born and raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and graduated from St. Norbert College and never left the area. I live in Ashwaubenon. I have one son. Brian and his wife, Candace, have two daughters: Madalyn, 14, finishing eighth grade and Alisha, 12, finishing sixth grade. They live in Kernersville, North Carolina.

Career in Accounting Education

My profession was accounting and income tax, but my career was 30 years of teaching in the Accounting Program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. I still work during the income tax season, even though I have been retired from teaching since 2010.

Embroidery, Biking & Traveling

I am a member of the Green Bay Area Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America and enjoy a variety of embroidery forms. I enjoy biking. I have an e-bike, and that helps keep me confident that I can go the distance! I enjoy traveling to North Carolina and just about anywhere. In October 2022, I spent two weeks in the Holy Land and just recently returned from Zambia, Africa.

Being a Pantry Volunteer is a Blessing

I look forward to my time at the Hope Center Pantry each month, and I loved working with all the volunteers organizing the food from the recent food drives. It’s a blessing to be a part of an organization that is making a difference in the lives of people in our community.

Schedule a Pantry Volunteer Visit Today

Contact us about volunteer opportunities or to schedule a visit to the pantry to experience volunteerism first-hand. The pantry is open 1-3pm Monday through Thursday at 505 Clinton St. Green Bay. Read the How You Can Help information to learn more. Volunteers provide an essential service to those in need in the Green Bay area. Thank you, Rita, and all of the volunteers at Hope Center Pantry.

Hunger on the Rise: Pantry Serves 2,319 Individuals in May

Janice and Chris Clemens sort donations at Hope Center Pantry
Hope Center Pantry Directors Chris and Janice Clemens
Photo by Timothy Mayer Artworks

Just when we thought our number of clients coming to Hope Center Pantry reached a high, the month of May 2023 really surprised us. We served 593 clients for a total of 2,319 family members! Compare this to our January 2023 outreach to 471 clients and 1,774 family members. Hunger is on the rise in Green Bay, Wisconsin!

Reduction in Food Shares/Food Stamps

Our clients tell us time and time again how much they appreciate the assistance they receive from the Hope Center Pantry. The food donations we provide allow them to feed their family nutritious meals. They are definitely feeling the recent reduction in their Food Shares/Food Stamps monies.

Thanks to Hope Center Pantry Volunteers

We are so grateful to have dedicated volunteers that show up day after day with such eagerness and understanding to give our clients a helping hand. Contact us to donate, volunteer, or request food assistance. Hope Center Pantry is open from 1-3pm Monday through Thursday at 505 Clinton St. Green Bay. Additionally, military veterans and active-duty personnel can pick up free food from 3-5pm on the second and third Tuesdays of the month.

The Joy of Giving: 20th Annual Baby Shower for Love Life

`0 women attend Baby shower for Love Life

By Karen Palluconi

We are a group of retired ladies that enjoy shopping for babies and children. Most of us are now grandmothers so we have discovered a beautiful way to acknowledge our shopping experience through hosting a “Baby Shower for Love Life” each year.

The tradition started about 20 years ago when a group of us met at someone’s home, and each of us brought small articles of clothing or books or toys to donate to Love Life. We had such a good time that we decided to repeat the experience the following year and every subsequent year since then.

Our baby shower each year begins with lunch and fellowship at a local restaurant, followed by a display of “show and tell” where we display what we bought. Through the years, our baby shower gifts have become more elaborate with purchasing winter coats and many new and used items of clothing such as outfits, tops, pants as well as diapers, wipes, formula, etc. After our luncheon and display of purchases, the items are loaded into my car’s trunk and back seat.

This year 10 ladies attended, including Sister Pat from the Quad Parishes. A lady who could not attend sent a check and made a blanket for the layettes.

The camaraderie of sharing a meal and sharing our joy of giving to Love Life makes a beautiful afternoon even more beautiful.

Clothing for baby shower for Love Life
Clothing for baby shower for Love Life
Clothing for baby shower for Love Life

2 Champions of the Poor: Hope Center Pantry & St. Vincent de Paul

A toy garage built from a box that contained food delivered by St. Vincent de Paul volunteer.

Give a boy a box, and his imagination will do the rest! We’d like to share this heartwarming story of two charitable organizations working hand-in-hand to make a difference in the life of a family in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

St. Vincent DePaul Answers the Call

Several volunteers at Hope Center Pantry also volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP), Green Bay, Wisconsin. Recently, a SVDP volunteer took a call from a mother with two children. She was between jobs, her car broke down, she received an eviction notice, and her family was low on food. That’s a lot for anyone to handle.

Free Food from Hope Center Pantry

The St. Vincent de Paul volunteer scheduled to meet with her the following day for a full assessment, but it was obvious that she needed free food, immediately. It was 2:45pm on a Thursday (Hope Center Pantry closes at 3pm), and the SVDP volunteer offered to get her some food from Hope Center Pantry to help the mother and her children through the weekend. Hope Center Pantry volunteers promptly delivered a box of food to the family, and the mother was quietly surprised at the generous amount of food. Her little boy carried the gallon of milk into the apartment and came back to help some more. His eyes lit up when he saw the pizza and juice. The volunteer smiled and said she hoped they would enjoy it. He enthusiastically responded, “I’m going to enjoy ALL of it!”

St. Vincent de Paul In-Home Visit

When the St. Vincent de Paul in-home visit team went to the family’s apartment the next morning, the mother was making omelets with the eggs from the pantry. That was wonderful to see, but that’s not all that made the SVDP team happy. They noticed that the boy made a play garage for his toy cars from the Hope Center Pantry food box. Together, St. Vincent DePaul and Hope Center Pantry gave this mother and her son some much-needed support in a difficult time. What a blessing to spread a little bit of hope by helping others.

Help Others by Volunteering at Hope Center Pantry

Want to make a difference in the community by helping others as a Hope Center Pantry volunteer? Contact us about volunteer opportunities or to schedule a visit to the pantry to experience volunteerism first-hand. The pantry is open 1-3pm Monday through Thursday at 505 Clinton St. Green Bay. Read the How We You Help information to learn more. Volunteers provide an essential service to those in need in the Green Bay, Wisconsin, area. Thank you to all of the volunteers at St. Vincent de Paul and Hope Center Pantry.

Letter Carriers Food Drive Yields 6,000 Pounds of Food for the Hungry

volunteers at Hope Center Pantry sort donations from the Letter Carrier Food Drive

After a three-year hiatus because of COVID-19, the Letter Carriers Food Drive returned on May 13, 2023, to Brown County, Wisconsin. Green Bay-area residents were encouraged to leave a bag of food by their mailbox to help fight hunger.

Food Drive Collects 6,000 Pounds of Nonperishables

As a result of the Letter Carriers Food Drive, Hope Center Pantry received 10 totes of food, totaling about 6,000 pounds. What a busy day for letter carriers and pantry volunteers! Some Hope Center Pantry volunteers drove the mail carrier routes to collect the food donations. Other volunteers unloaded the nonperishable food at the Post Office and loaded it into totes. Many other volunteers sorted and stored the food at the pantry. What a tremendous effort by so many dedicated pantry volunteers.

Largest One-Day Food Drive in the Country

This food drive is sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers and is the largest one-day food drive in the country. Letter carriers give back to the community by collecting millions of pounds of food, all which stays in the area where it was collected. The 2023 food drive was the 31st event.

Organize a Food Drive at Your School or Business

Thanks to the National Association of Letter Carriers for helping address food insecurity in Brown County, Wisconsin, by organizing the Letter Carriers Food Drive. Hope Center Pantry was honored to receive and distribute the donated food to pantry clients. If your school, business, or nonprofit is interested in organizing a food drive or collection drive for Hope Center Pantry, please contact us. Help us serve and guide those who are in need in the Green Bay area.

Love Life Ministry Volunteerism Has its Perks: Experience the Joy of Friendship

Mary Davis, Irene Jankowski,and Nancy Spiegelhoff  in Mary Davis' new home. Sharon Zambrowicz took the photo.
Irene Jankowski, left, and Nancy Spiegelhoff, right, visit Mary Davis, at Mary’s new home. Sharon Zambrowicz took the photo. The four women developed a wonderful friendship, brought together as volunteers at Love Life Ministry.

My name is Mary Davis. I became involved with the Love Life Ministry back in 2000. At the time, I was getting divorced from my husband of 11 years. I was looking for ways to volunteer within the church. I knew Sharon Zambrowicz from grade school. She was my cooking teacher at St. Joseph Grade School, as well as the mother of my fellow classmate. I began helping at Love Life Ministry, checking in the clients and also sorting clothes. Eventually, I helped put the monthly list together. I continue to help with the list.

Volunteers Go Above & Beyond

Both Sharon and Larry Zambrowicz were so involved with every aspect of their ministry, so much so that they not only helped people on Thursdays but throughout the week and even at their own home. Sharon helped me as well. One time, Sharon, Nancy Spiegelhoff and Irene Jankowski brought dinner over to my place to celebrate the recent purchase of my home. They went above and beyond!

Nancy also took extra time out of her busy life on more than one occasion. She even when out for dessert with me at a local restaurant or offered for me to stop by her home so she could be a sounding board for another day. These women are amazing; they helped me tremendously!

The Benefits of Volunteering

Love Life Ministry volunteers Larry and Sharon Zambrowicz talk with Mary Davis
Love Life Ministry volunteers Larry and Sharon Zambrowicz talk with Mary Davis,

I know it’s an old saying but it’s true: You get more from helping others and volunteering, than you give! As I continue to help just a little now at Love Life Ministry, I have met Joann Vaile, the current director. She seems to have filled Sharon’s shoes very well.

There are many other volunteers involved now, of whom I only know Karen Domke. Karen is another great volunteer who’s involved in so much so unselfishly. These volunteers are continuing the dream Sharon and Larry started, which has become something we have come to expect. May we never forget how wonderful all these volunteers are and not take any of them for granted!
Thank you, Love Life Ministry!

Hope Center Pantry Opens Late for Veterans & Active Military

man in a military uniform to represent extended food pantry hours for veterans

Starting in May 2023, Hope Center Pantry, Green Bay, Wisconsin, extended its pantry hours to specifically serve military veterans. Military veterans and active-duty personnel can visit Hope Center Pantry to pick up free food from 3-5pm on the second and third Tuesdays of the month. Volunteers, who are veterans also, serve their fellow veterans during these extended food pantry hours. Hope Center Pantry is located at 505 Clinton Street on the West Side of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Hunger Impacts Lives of Military Veterans

Hunger affects many military veterans and their families every day. According to Feeding America, 1 in 9 working-age veterans live in a food insecure household, and 24 percent of active-duty service members were food insecure in 2020. Hope Center Pantry is doing something about it, by extending pantry hours and staffing the pantry with military veterans’ needs in mind.

Extended Pantry Hours to Feed Hungry Veterans

Hope Center Pantry is giving back to veterans and active military members who serve our country now or in the past. The extended food pantry hours for veterans are designed to help military families make ends meet. If you or someone you know is active military or a military veteran in need of food assistance, visit Hope Center Pantry for free food during regular pantry hours or the military-only hours.

Veterans Encouraged to Volunteer at Food Pantry

Additionally, if you’re a military veteran looking to give back to the community and other veterans, consider becoming a food pantry volunteer. Contact us about volunteer opportunities or to schedule a visit to the pantry to experience volunteerism first-hand. The pantry is open 1-3pm Monday through Thursday at 505 Clinton St. Green Bay. Read the How Can We Help information to learn more. Volunteers provide an essential service to those in need in Green Bay, Wisconsin, including active military and veterans.