Food pantry to remain open under new administrators

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Jonah Beleckis | August 22, 2017

ELKHORN—A month ago, Walworth County Food Pantry owner Jim Drescher said the pantry would close because he couldn't find anyone to take over operations from him and his wife, Ardith.

But then came John and Susan Hughes.

The Hughes couple moved to Lake Geneva about two years ago and were “looking for a mission to serve the community,” John said.

They saw articles about the food pantry closing, and it clicked.

The Walworth County Food Pantry will not be closing after all. John and Susan are transitioning to take over, and the Dreschers will get closer to spending more time with their family, which is why they could no longer run the pantry.

The Hughes couple moved permanently to Lake Geneva so they could be closer to family, too, after having homes in Arizona and Chicago, John said.

They joined Lake Geneva's Immanuel Lutheran Church, where the Dreschers also belong, and Susan joined the Fontana Garden Club. Both groups have people who volunteer with the food pantry, John said.

“We wanted a real meaningful mission,” John said. “It showed up right there in our face. By all signs, this was the thing we should do.”

John said Susan will be spearheading the project as a managing director. They plan to make some changes to the pantry outside of its day-to-day operations.

Jim Drescher ran the food pantry under his own charitable foundation, so John said they met with an attorney to make the pantry its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

They want to make the organization “self-sustaining” with a board of directors, by-laws and forms of income so it could keep running without them, if necessary, John said.

John, who said he was a businessman in the technology industry, also said he wants to make the pantry more visible to the community.

Still, John said he wanted to continue the tradition of the food pantry treating guests like customers. Drescher had previously emphasized the importance of customer service and treating people with dignity when taking care of those who might be at low points in their lives.

The Dreschers also had a long list of connections around the county as well as a healthy set of volunteers, John said. Many volunteers have said they are willing to stay on and help, he added.

The pantry, which opened in 2009, is open 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. It serves an average of 550 families per month, Drescher has said.

But now the Dreschers can move on.

“They've spent a lot of time building this thing,” John said. “They deserve a break and to go on to the next phase of their lives.”

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