Skip Navigation


PANTRY CLOSED Dec. 23-28 and Dec. 30; OPEN Dec. 29 - 9 am to 4 pm


Lou Ann Wagner has always volunteered and believes in giving back to her community

As a single mom working full time and supporting her three young children, she made sure to set enough aside to buy holiday gifts for people who had less than she had. “She carved out money to do that when we didn’t have much,” says her oldest daughter, Jennifer Murphy.

Lou Ann’s connection to WayForward (formerly Middleton Outreach Ministry) goes all the way back to when the family moved to Middleton in 1981 and joined St. Bernard Catholic Church. Jennifer recalls her mother doing a number of jobs in support of WayForward’s work, including years of  stopping on her way home from work to do an hour of volunteer data entry. She has continued to support the organization’s mission over the years.

But Lou Ann’s volunteer service and her life came to a halt in August 2022, when she fell off a ladder at home and suffered a traumatic brain injury. 

Her injury was life-threatening, requiring extensive interventions, rehabilitation and therapies.  As her recovery progressed, Lou Ann’s desire to help others kicked back in.  Even though she wasn’t really “allowed” to be on her computer without support, she would not be deterred.

“I signed myself up to volunteer” she said, after remembering her log-in and password to WayForward’s volunteer site. Since she wasn’t yet cleared to drive herself, Jennifer found herself recruited to volunteer with her. For the last year, the duo has been part of the “clean team” – Lou Ann vacuuming and tidying up the Clothing Center and Jennifer sweeping and mopping in the food pantry and the lobby of the building.

“This work is a reminder of how many unseen roles matter to WayForward,” Jennifer says. “Even ‘invisible’ jobs can be so valuable. If I am someone walking into this space and it’s clean, that means something.”

Both women consider their time volunteering as a key part of Lou Ann’s recovery from her injuries. “I’m feeling really good,” says Lou Ann, who no longer needs a ride from her daughter because she can once again drive herself to WayForward.

“This means a lot to us because we see how long she’s been giving back here,” Jennifer says.

“It is right in our backyard,” Lou Ann says.

“And people need help.” Jennifer adds.

Their time volunteering together adds to Lou Ann’s legacy of helping others and they hope others feel inspired to do the same. “There’s so many ways to be helpful,” Jennifer says. 

WayForward volunteer Lynn Metz has helped collect, organize and distribute backpacks and school supplies to hundreds of students over the last decade.

As the lead volunteer for the Back to School program, Metz spends a lot of her summer thinking about the first day of school and what it means for kids to have what they need when they walk into their classrooms.

“There’s more need out there in our small community than people realize,” Metz says. “This brings to light the fact that kids need support to start off on the right foot.”

The massive organizational effort comes together with financial support and donations from individuals, churches and businesses. “The community is amazing,” Metz says. “We have a company that’s packing first grade backpacks, we have another company that’s packing kindergarten backpacks. I love the involvement.”

For Metz, the highlight is the day students arrive to pick out their backpacks. “No one that comes in has any idea how much work was involved in the program. Everything is organized by grade, and the backpacks are just sitting there ready to go,” she says. “I love seeing that.”

To support this year’s Back to School Program, visit our seasonal support page.


food donation barrel with WayForward Resources logo that reads DONATE HERE with a QR code, a large orange arrow and and stripes in navy, light blue and peachA crew of volunteers from Springs Window Fashions signed up for painting duty to give our food barrels a makeover ahead of our name change to WayForward Resources in May.

Springs has a strong history as a community partner and their role in this transition was fitting.

Some of WayForward’s donation barrels originally came from Springs — many years ago they received them with product deliveries and they later repurposed them as food barrels for company food drives.

Want to organize a food drive? Visit our drives page!

Jim Levin, a retired infectious disease physician, learned about MOM from his daughter, who had volunteered in the past. He was looking for something to do with some of his spare time after retiring last January and started volunteering in the fall as a senior program volunteer driver. In a few cases, he has been able to share his medical expertise, offering insights to seniors heading to doctor appointments to help them better understand their condition or what questions to consider asking.

What keeps you coming back?
The gratitude of the clients you are helping drive to medical appointments, the grocery store or to pick up laundry. I enjoy the conversations we get to have on the way.

What has surprised you about volunteering at MOM?
How well run the operation is and the caring people that work at MOM.

What would you tell a friend who is considering volunteering?
I would tell them that I am happy volunteering for MOM and impressed with the day-to-day operations

In April, MOM will celebrate Global Volunteer Month to honor those who give their time and talents to build food security and housing stability in our community. Over the last year, more than 1,000 volunteers have given their time to support our programs. Meet Jonathan Morkved, one of our newer volunteers, who gives his time to support our food pantry. Jonathan started volunteering in the fall. He picks up food rescue items from two local food retailers on Mondays and Fridays on his way to work, stopping at MOM to weigh in and help stock the food he rescues.

What keeps you coming back?
I really enjoy working with the other volunteers and I believe in MOM’s mission of ending community hunger. I love rescuing food from local retailers that would otherwise be wasted. It gives me a great sense of purpose and belonging in the community.

What has surprised you about volunteering at MOM?
I was really surprised by the organization of the program and the open/timely communication to the volunteers. The weekly emails help keep everyone up to date and on the same page to any changes or updates to the program.

What would you tell a friend who is considering volunteering?
I would tell everyone to just sign up for one shift to volunteer inside of the food pantry. You will get a great sense of the support, kindness and inclusivity that is what MOM is all about. You will feel so warm and welcomed that you will want to come back for more. It almost feels like a family!

On Thursday, June 2,  MOM was delighted to return to Lakeview Park in Middleton for the first Volunteer Appreciation Picnic since 2019. Volunteers, their guests, and MOM staff enjoyed a relaxed evening in the newly renovated park shelter that included a delicious Middleton BBQ and “Moose” catered picnic, an assortment of yard games (Giant Jenga, Kerplunk!, Connect 4, Bean Bag Toss, and Bocce), and time to mix and mingle with each other. A brief program of appreciation concluded with a special message from MOM Executive Director, Ellen Carlson. We are grateful to volunteers who make our work possible.