ALTOONA — Altoona High School freshman Madison Zimmerman has always wanted to give back to her community.
So this year the 15-year-old decided to join the high school Interact Club, a service and social club sponsored by the Rotary Club of Altoona.
Early Saturday morning, she finally got the chance to see the impact the work could have at the Chippewa Valley’s inaugural iFeed event, where volunteers packed 30,000 meals for those suffering from food insecurity.
“I thought this would be just one great opportunity to help the community,” Zimmerman said. “This is important.”
Zimmerman was one of more than 100 volunteers to gather Saturday at Altoona High School for the event, hosted by the Interact Clubs at Altoona and Regis high schools and other local Rotary clubs.
The day consisted of packing meals and organizing other food items, which were collected over the last couple of weeks by the Eau Claire school district and several businesses around the community.
Kaylynn Stahlbusch, event organizer and member of the Chippewa Valley After Hours Rotary, said the event was inspired by the La Crosse area Rotary clubs, who have been putting on the iFeed event annually since starting it in 2013.
Bringing the same idea to the Chippewa Valley seemed like a great fit because of After Hours’ mission to eradicate hunger in the Chippewa Valley through their service, Stahlbusch said.
“This has been our mission since day one,” she said, noting the club was established about five years ago. “Everyone is really excited to be here today.”
Another goal for the event, Stahlbusch said, is to continue attracting a younger generation of Rotarians.
“All clubs like this are looking for younger members to join,” Stahlbusch said, “because that’s the future.”
After starting the event this year and showing the younger volunteers how to organize it, Stahlbusch plans to hand it over to the high school Interact Clubs to run in future years.
But volunteers at the event weren’t just high school students. Two teams from Xcel Energy, consisting of both employees and their children, spent a few hours packing meals.
Julie Thoney, community service manager at Xcel Energy, said it was a great day to involve some of the employees’ children in their dedication to giving back to their neighbors.
“We always enjoy giving back to the community and our employees always love rolling up our sleeves and getting to work,” Thoney said. “It’s kind of fun to not only see employees, but their children, all giving back.”
Leda Judd of Eau Claire volunteered with her daughter’s faith formation group at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Eau Claire. Their group was a combination of North High School freshman and their parents.
“This is a great experience for the kids,” Judd said, “and us parents too.”