APPLETON — “A little kindness goes a long way,” says Barb Ketter as she reflects on volunteerism. And it’s a spirit that is catching, she adds.
Volunteering is something that comes naturally to this St. Bernadette parishioner. It was an attitude her family fostered and one that she and her husband, Dave, are passing on to their three children and four grandchildren. Her 4-year-old granddaughter recently asked if she could join her in serving meals at Loaves and Fishes, even though volunteers have to be 13 or older to serve. “She said, ‘I think I could help people, too. Can I come along with you?’
“I think it’s wonderful that she sees that spirit of giving and that we are passing that along,” Ketter said.
In addition to volunteering in her parish, specifically at the huge annual St. Bernadette Rummage Sale, she shares her time and talents at Loaves and Fishes, a community meal program, in Appleton, and Community Child Care Center in Kimberly.
Loaves and Fishes moved into its new home at St. Therese Parish, Appleton, in October. Before that, it had operated for many years out of Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Appleton. When Trinity Lutheran was sold, St. Therese Parish opened its doors to the meal program. Ketter was one of the volunteers who helped get the school cafeteria renovated to accommodate the nearly 120 guests who are welcomed three nights a week for a free hot meal and companionship.
“I was mostly involved with cleaning the space,” she said. “When you do that, you appreciate it so much more. And, it is nice to be part of St. Therese. They are very welcoming.” The meals average about 100 people each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30-6:30 p.m., weather permitting. The meals are open to anyone. In 2016, 22,880 meals were served. All the meals have a protein, fruit, salad, vegetable, dessert and a beverage.
Volunteers make all the food onsite, and they are encouraged to eat with the guests. “It’s nice because you get to know the people a little bit,” Ketter said.
“I am a facility manager,” Ketter said, though she helps in other areas as well. “I do whatever needs to be done.”
Twice a year, she also can be found at a grocery store for a Hunger Awareness event. Volunteers ask people to buy an item and donate it back to help Loaves and Fishes. “This not only stocks our shelves, but also raises awareness of us and the need to help people in the Fox Valley,” she said. Most of the food comes from donations from Valley companies, St. Joseph Food Program or these events.
Ketter also donates time and talent to the nonprofit Community Child Care Center, Kimberly, where she once worked. “I see the need there. Child care centers don’t get the help and attention they need. I do some cleaning for them, help with the children, or whatever they need.” She has also shared her sewing talents by making cot sheets and baby items for them.
“I started making baby bibs for them and that grew into more of an outreach,” she said. Now, she makes items for other places. For example, after her mother moved into assisted living, she began making clothing protectors for the residents. She also continues to make and donate baby bibs. “Last year, I gave away more than 200 of them,” Ketter said. She also puts together some of her handmade items into baskets for raffles.
When it comes to volunteering, “You always get back more than you give,” she said. “That’s the way I was brought up — to always help others. You see how doing little things means a lot to people. Being able to greet people in a positive way goes a long way.”