When you are a family that is struggling to put food on the table, it is not always easy to reach out for assistance. When people in need find their way to the Tosa Cares food pantry, they often discover that the experience can be fulfilling in many ways.

The support Tosa Cares provides often leads to the recipient giving back and becoming a part of the assistance for others. Eric Meeks was in a rough spot five years ago and heard about the food pantry and decided to check out what they had to offer. Soon he found himself on the other side of things.

"I needed food one day and I then I met these wonderful people," Meeks said. "It's a pride thing, I had to swallow my pride. It's a good thing I did because now I have the chance to give back."

Meeks said not only did Tosa Cares help him with some food, but they also gave him a maintenance job and helped him find an apartment.

Tosa Cares operates out of the back of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church at 12012 W. North Ave. Seven times a year they distribute food, including a date each fall that coincides with Thanksgiving. This year they distributed over 6,400 pounds of food Nov. 19, including 2,400 pounds of turkeys.

"The church has always been open to helping people in need," Mt. Zion Pastor Steve Ohrtman said. "We need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk."

The operation is led by Tom and Linda Ertel, but they are quick to point out that there are numerous church members and citizens that make up the volunteers that assist in the food distribution and collection.

Many contributors

Assisting organizations include the Wauwatosa Youth Commission, Suburban Woman’s Club of Wauwatosa, Kiwanis Club of Wauwatosa, Wauwatosa School Key Clubs, boy and girl scout troops and several area churches. Grandma's House child day care is one such collector, and when the kids bring the food to the pantry, the children learn about giving back to the community.

"We have been collecting food for Tosa Cares over the past four years with our families," Director of community of events at Grandma's House Katie Pleuss said. "We provide a bag with a list of the most needed items and when everything comes back, our four-year-old classes are in charge of delivering all the food. During this time the teachers talk about helping the community and caring for one another."

Holiday train

When the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train stops in Wauwatosa Dec. 6, Tosa Cares will be the beneficiary of the event.  Attendees viewing the train are asked to bring nonperishable food items or cash donations that will be collected by volunteers.

A list of item food items suggested by the Tosa Cares pantry include:

  • Cereal
  • Nonperishable fruits, vegetables and juices
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Spaghetti sauces and noodles
  • Pastas and rice
  • Canned protein, such as chicken, tuna and beef stew
  • Snacks such as granola bars, crackers, popcorn and cookies
  • Packaged dinners, especially those with meat
  • Hearty soups
  • Toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, paper towels and tissues
  • Personal care items such as shampoo, hand soap, lotion and toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Dish soap and laundry soap

Upcoming food distribution days at Tosa Cares include the following 2017 Saturdays: Jan. 14, March 11, April 29, June 17 and Aug. 12.

Tosa Cares is seeking volunteers for all aspects of its operation. On a regular basis the volunteers help with jobs like stocking shelves, collecting food, packing food boxes, and carrying boxes to vehicles. If you wish to lead a food drive or help at the pantry, please send an email to

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