Student projects fill freezers for the hungry

Where's the beef? It's stored in freezers, ready to be handed out to hungry folks through the Faith United Methodist Church Food Pantry in Superior. "It's wonderful, absolutely wonderful to have this meat for people," said Linda Berg with the foo...

Dustin Soyring, 18, of Maple, front, and fellow 4-H and FFA members tote boxes of hamburger slated for the Faith United Methodist Church Food Pantry as Rich Oswskey of United Piping Inc., second from left, looks on. (Maria Lockwood)

Where’s the beef?

It’s stored in freezers, ready to be handed out to hungry folks through the Faith United Methodist Church Food Pantry in Superior.

"It’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful to have this meat for people," said Linda Berg with the food pantry. "It will make a huge difference."

Rich Oswskey of Maple, a supervisor with United Piping Inc., helped Berg load boxes of pre-wrapped hamburger into her minivan Wednesday at the Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds. The business bought a steer at the annual Douglas County Beef Improvement Association 4-H/FFA Livestock Auction. Instead of trying to distribute the meat among 400 employees, the Duluth-based company donated it to the food pantry.

"When you buy a steer, you’re doing it to give a young kid money," Oswskey said. "Donating the beef is just another way of keeping it going."


It’s the second year in a row United Piping has given beef to the food pantry, which serves between 40 and 65 households a week.

"We’re so grateful for it," Berg said. "We don’t often get hamburger. We were thrilled to get that twice."

For Oswskey, who grew up in Foxboro, attending the auction and bidding on the animals was a blast from the past.

"I used to show animals at the fair and sell them when I was a kid," he said. "It’s fun being on the other side."

There were many familiar faces in the stands, from the 34 registered bidders to the proud parents.

"All the people I competed against, their kids were showing animals," said Oswskey. Many of the bidders were contractors United Piping works with in the field.

"I like to see all the businesses get together," Oswskey said. To make the connections complete, he bought the steer from one of the children he coached in football.

In Poplar and Iron River, pork raised by Douglas County youngsters awaits distribution through the Rural Care and Share Food Shelf. The meat was purchased at the same auction by Jerry Soyring of Gulf Interstates Field Services Inc.


"I was amazed," said Bette Hanson of Poplar, who helps run the food shelf. "That’s quite a donation."

Soyring called her up hours before the auction to let her know he planned to bring home some bacon for the food shelf.

"It just came out of the blue," Hanson said, and she jumped in her car to be there for the auction. "It was something that needs to be recognized."

The former 4-H leader enjoyed stepping back into the thick of things at the auction.

"It was so fun," Hanson said.

The Rural Care and Share Food Shelf serves about 55 households a month in both Poplar and Iron River. Over the winter, those numbers climb to about 75 households at each site.

Soyring got approval from Gulf Interstates Field Services, based in Houston, Texas, to bid for the swine. He went because he wanted to make sure there were plenty of bidders, and to help the food shelf. Hanson is a good friend, and Soyring often hauls items for the food shelf.

"This way you see your donation go to help someone in the community," he said.


Hanson expressed her thanks to Soyring and others who make it a point to support the food shelf.

"We’re well-supported by our community out here," she said.

Traditionally, youngsters show their animals and auction them off in the midst of the Head of the Lakes Fair. Because the fair was set for late August this year, the decision was made to move the livestock portion up so all 20 Douglas County youngsters could compete. The change led to calmer animals and a more focused show, they said.

"We enjoyed this experience more," said Mason Velin, 15, of South Range. There were still a lot of people, but the atmosphere was quieter, said Steven Markon, 17, of Maple.

Enbridge got involved in the giving this year, too. The company purchased a steer, then sold tickets to employees for a chance to win packages of meat. All the proceeds will go to the United Way. These businesses cornered the market on both livestock and giving.

"It’s a blessing and it makes a difference in so many people’s lives," Berg said.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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