The Chippewa Falls Legacy Community Center has continued to grow and is seeking community support to sustain its mission.
Since moving into its location at 26 W. Grand Ave. in Chippewa Falls a year ago, the nonprofit has grown its services and expanded its reach into the community. The center is hoping to grow its community support as well.
Rebecca Al-awdi, executive director of the Legacy Center, said that while the center have gotten several grants, including a three-year grant from the United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley, its mainstay is the support of Chippewa Valley residents.
“It’s really basically community funding that keeps us going,” Al-awdi said.
That support has allowed them to expand from a food pantry and running several meals a week out of a local church into a number of other avenues.
The food pantry has given out nearly 50,000 pounds of food to around 1,200 households since opening.
Agnes’ Table has grown to include free breakfast three times a week, lunch once and dinner twice, as well as running skills training out of the kitchen built next door to the Legacy Center in its own space.
The additional clothing area has given out around 1,500 items of clothing to 500 individuals in the community, and the group has helped refer around 200 people to community partners for services or resources.
The office also serves as a meeting place for other groups without local offices to reach community members.
The organization maintains primarily volunteer support and have only two staff members, one for the Legacy Center and one to run Agnes’ Table.
Dave Gordon, president of the Legacy Center board, said that the group was able to do so much because of community support but wanted people to understand that the startup costs for the building and restaurant area to meet all those needs were extensive.
“We were fortunate that the community helped us with that,” Gordon said. “Our problem has been marketing what we’re doing.”
According to Gordon, running all the services and space requires about $250,000 per year.
He said that people in the community may not realize how many households in the area are being put in positions to choose, for example, between medicine and groceries.
“They’re making decisions I don’t think anyone should have to make,” Gordon said.
He cited the United Way’s ALICE report, which shows a wide range of needs among people in Wisconsin who aren’t homeless, but could be at risk of homelessness easily due to limited resources.
ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, and according to the United Way represents growing number of households that do not earn enough to afford basic necessities.
In an updated 2018 study, Chippewa County is seeing the same issues as elsewhere in the state, with basic living costs rising while wages lag behind.
United Way estimated that in 2018, 26 percent of households in Chippewa County qualified as ALICE households, or ones which earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county.
About 10 percent of the households were below the federal poverty level.
Tom Diel, of the Chippewa County Recovery Wellness Consortium and board member at the Legacy Center, said they’ve been using a sponsorship model, whether it’s a one-time donation or ongoing support, because the community is part of the organization as well, as are the people it helps.
They have opportunities to donate at both their Facebook page and website, as well as in person at the center.
Diel said part of the philosophy is trying to supplement what is already in the county for assistance, but also to prevent people from needing to get more extensive services later.
Another goal is to bring people together to help each other.
“It’s that sense of community we’re trying to promote here as well,” Diel said.