Every time members of the Waupaca Area Food Pantry’s executive board leave the pantry, they look at the peeling paint on the building’s outside wall.
They think about the need to put money in the budget for paint.
“We’ve been talking about it for two years,” said Kathy Jenner, the pantry’s volunteer operations manager.
Soon that wall will have fresh coats of paint and a new look, thanks to the efforts of a local speech therapist, graphic artist and hundreds of Waupaca students.
They will transform the wall into a mural that features a Waupaca nature scene.
Students from Waupaca Learning Center and Waupaca Middle School will add their handprints to the mural during a school day in late May. Elementary students will create the grass, while the middle school students will create the leaves on the trees.
In addition, students who attend Waupaca parochial and preschools or who are home schooled are invited to participate in the community service project.
All students are asked to bring a non-perishable food donation for the pantry on the day they paint.
The mural’s design was created by Camin Potts, a local graphic artist.
She was approached by Kelly Baumgart, a speech therapist in the Waupaca School District, and asked if a group of middle school boys called the Waupaca Secret Service could take on the project.
Potts is familiar with the work of the Waupaca Secret Service, as she designed the logo that appears on the card they leave behind after they do a good deed.
The Waupaca Secret Service is made up of eight boys. They started doing good deeds anonymously last fall.
Those deeds have included raking leaves, going Christmas caroling and making Valentine’s Day cards.
The Waupaca Secret Service has also dropped off homemade treats at Waupaca Area Ambulance and the Waupaca Police Department and made dog treats for the Waupaca County Sheriff Department’s K9 unit and the dogs at the Humane Society of Waupaca County.
They like to pay it forward and hope to inspire other youth in the community to do the same.
For some time, Baumgart noticed the food pantry’s wall needed paint.
“It’s just a vision I’ve seen for a long time. I couldn’t do it by myself,” she said. “I love the idea of kids coming into the community and doing things.”
Baumgart was raised in Waupaca, and it is the same community she and her husband, Ben, are raising their four children.
“My father (Fran Vergauwen) is a community-based person. That is how he brought me up,” she said.
When Baumgart told Potts they needed to involve students in the painting project, Potts said, “I love that.”
The discussion soon turned to involving students from throughout the school district.
Potts came up with the idea to incorporate handprints into the mural to create leaves.
Assistance is needed to fund the project.
The cost of the paint and supplies is estimated at $1,500 to $2,000. Baumgart believes they may need 34 to 44 gallons of paint.
Monetary donations for the project may be made out to the Waupaca Area Food Pantry and designated for the wall mural project, she said.
The food pantry is located at 800 Churchill St. and is open from 9-11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Those interested in volunteering may contact Baumgart at 715-256-9154.
Baumgart and John Roe, of Ruby’s Pantry, will be involved in prepping the wall for the project. Potts will paint the mural’s background.
Waupaca artist Jim Lang will monitor the work of the students when they arrive to add their handprints.
Baumgart said the project’s timeline will depend on the weather. They will announce the student painting dates.
Potts plans to photograph the project as it develops and to also create a video about it.
This service opportunity is one of many the Waupaca Secret Service hopes to begin publicizing.
Future plans call for information to be posted on their website – waupacasecretservice.com – about where they will be volunteering so others may join them.
Potts says the upcoming mural project means local students will be helping local families.
The Waupaca Area Food Pantry serves families in the Waupaca School District.
Jenner said the pantry helps about 225 families each month.
The pantry will be the recipient of hundreds of food donations when the students arrive there to paint.
“We feel grateful that you thought of us,” Jenner said to Baumgart and Potts.