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Linda Ertel shares a third and final blog post of thoughts and photos on the early days of Tosa Cares. Read Parts 1 and 2 here!

As the years went on, Tosa Cares grew from an organization that served ​four​ families at

​its ​beginning in 2008 to a large scale operation that distribute​d​ food to 120-140 families

on Saturday​ mornings​ with the help of 50 volunteers​. ​Smaller numbers ​were served ​on

the Friday before and the Monday ​​following​ the Saturday distribution​. Clothing,

personal care and household items were ​added. Breakfast was served, and services such

as health and wellness checks, voter information, legal and other social services,

individual spiritual guidance and prayer were offered. ​By 2019, an average of 187

families​ were served ​per distribution.


Then ​came ​March of 2020…COVID​ hit​. Everything closed down – but the need​s​ ​of

families never stopped. How would families safely receive food​ with all the new

restrictions​? Large distribution ​Saturdays ​were no longer ​possible​. Like everything else,

Tosa Cares had to adjust. Closing down was not an option. 

Contact was made with our Tosa Cares families through hundreds​ of ​phone calls and

​mailed ​postcards. ​Appointments were made for each family for a food drive​-​up and pick

up. The community responded to ​the desperate need for food, clothing, and personal

care products. Contactless drop off times were created at churches, community places

and at Tosa Cares. Financial gifts were shared that allowed us to purchase needed

products. Generosity continued to fuel Tosa Cares and families were served in spite of

all the barriers the pandemic put in the way. Tosa​ ​Cares could​ and would​ not be

stopped! In 2020 – 186 families per distribution – and 1351 total family visits.

In 2021 – 230 families per distribution – 1843 total family visits. As the COVID numbers

were ​finally beginning to ​decrease​, families ​continued to drive up to receive their food​

​boxes, and were invited inside the building ​to select clothing items and additional food

choices. In 2022 Tosa Cares served an average of 261 families per distribution: that’s an

amazing 2085 ​total ​family visits!

Today, ​Tosa Cares continues to meet the many needs of those they serve. Inflation and

lessening of food share amounts​ have increased the demand for assistance. ​Food boxes

​are packed not only with non-perishable food, but also with fresh produce, meat, bread,

and toilet tissue. Diapers, feminine supplies, incontinence products, personal care items

like soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes and at times cleaning products and school supplies​

are offered​. ​Tosa Cares now occupies four entire rooms at Mount Zion Lutheran

Church! The number of families needing a helping hand continues to grow and the

community continues to respond.

Fall of 2022 ​has ​seemed like a reawakening of sorts – churches, schools and civic

organizations back doing product donations. Large scale events like Tosa Fest and the

Holiday Train came back to​ ​Tosa. More volunteers are coming to the pantry to help.​ 

​God is good. One thing the pandemic could not change: caring for one another still matters; and Tosa Cares is still at the heart of it.

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Linda Ertel shares a second blog post of thoughts and photos on the early days of Tosa Cares. Read Part 1 here!

The shelves were rebuilt, donations from the police station were organized by categories on the shelves, more food was collected. Tosa for Kids provided a list of ten families they had been providing with food. From that list of ten families four families could be reached and these four families were invited to be our first Tosa Cares guests on Saturday, March 22, 2008. We were excited, we were ready, the boxes of food were packed.

On Friday, March 21, 2008, a snow storm dropped 15 inches of snow in the Wauwatosa area. The Tosa Cares volunteers arrived on Saturday morning to a parking lot covered with snow, not an inch plowed. Shovels were dispatched and a path from the pantry door to the road, was uncovered.

Somehow, our first families found their way inside to the warmth and excitement of the volunteers. Those boxes of food were enthusiastically carried out to the vehicles in the street. Tosa Cares is real. We provided food for four families including 18 individuals.

In celebration of our 15th Anniversary please consider making a monthly recurring donation! Even monthly donations as little as $5/month are a huge benefit for the pantry and help us predict our month to month budgets. Donations can be made on our Givebutter page, are safe and secure, and can be cancelled anytime. Click here to donate today!

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Linda Ertel shares some thoughts and photos on the early days of Tosa Cares. Stay tuned for part 2 coming in February!

It was late December, 2007. The Tosa For Kids Food program had been operating out of the Wauwatosa Police Department under the direction of Officer Judy Neuder. Officer Neuder was retiring, and the police station could no longer provide the space for the food pantry.  Because there was a definite need, Officer Neuder and the Tosa for Kids Board was hoping perhaps a church, a service group or an individual might take over? Many groups were asked to consider this request, but the responses were not positive. UNTIL Linda Ertel brought it to the Mount Zion Lutheran Church Outreach Committee (which Tom and Linda were members of). Their response? “We will find a way!”

Two other Wauwatosa churches, Mount Carmel Lutheran and St. Matthew’s Lutheran, agreed to help. In January 2008 an eleven member board was formed from these 3 churches and other community members. They decided to form a new entity and Tosa Cares was born!


There was much to be done. In February of 2008 shelving and remaining food donations were moved from the police station and reconfigured in a spare room in Mt. Zion Lutheran on 120th and North Ave. The first priorities were organizing the space, collecting food, and

finding ways to connect with families in need.


To be continued…

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