Students from throughout the Waupaca School District are turning the exterior of the Waupaca Area Food Pantry into a work of art.
In addition, they are donating non-perishable food items to the pantry at a time when the number of people visiting the pantry begins to climb.
“This project definitely enhances community involvement and exposure to the food pantry. With so many school kids participating and bringing non-perishable foods to donate, it’s drawn attention to not only our location, but our need for summer donations to help families and individuals who are struggling,” said Kathy Jenner, the pantry’s volunteer operations manager.
Last week, students from Waupaca Learning Center and Waupaca Middle School began walking to the food pantry with their teachers to be a part of the project.
Volunteers rolled a coat of paint onto the palms of the students’ hands, and the students then placed their painted hands on the wall.
The mural features a Waupaca nature scene.
It was designed by Camin Potts, a local graphic artist.
Potts and Kelly Baumgart, a speech/language pathologist in the Waupaca School District, prepared the wall and painted the background with the assistance of the Waupaca Secret Service.
The Waupaca Secret Service is a group of middle school boys who started doing deeds anonymously last fall. The group promotes the idea of “paying it forward.”
For some time, Baumgart noticed the food pantry’s wall needed painted.
She had a vision of what the wall could look like, but needed help to make it a reality.
Aware of the work of the Waupaca Secret Service, she approached the group and Potts for their help to get the project started.
That was a couple months ago, and they received an anonymous donation to cover the cost of the paint and other necessary materials.
Younger students used their handprints to make the grass, while other students created the leaves on the trees.
The project ran like an assembly line.
After volunteers rolled paint onto the hands of the students, Jim Lang helped the students place their hands on the wall.
Lang is a local artist and former elementary art teacher.
Potts said it was great to have Lang be a part of the project, because he is someone the students recognize and also miss.
Lang said, “I just think it’s a great thing to have kids understand that as a group effort, they can do things together. It’s good for them recognize that as a community, they can do things together.”
Kathy Listle, a kindergarten teacher at Waupaca Learning Center, said being a part of the community mural project will be a wonderful memory for the students.
“We’re used to finger painting in kindergarten, so this is just an extension of what we do,” she said.
Once the students added their handprints, they moved to an area where there were wash buckets, rinse buckets and a drying station.
Classes often posed for photos in front of the wall, after they were done painting.
The project is resulting in excitement throughout the community.
“The Food Pantry Board and all the volunteers are really excited by the project,” Jenner said. “It’s certainly a vibrant and colorful landscape compared to our drab, peeling wall that it replaces.”
She also said, “It has been awesome to see so many proud parents and curious folks slowly driving through the parking lot to see the mural. And, we are hearing so many positive comments out in the community. Folks are texting, emailing or just talking about the project in conversation saying how wonderful or awesome the wall looks. We can’t thank Camin Potts and Kelly Baumgart enough for their vision and initiative in taking on this project.”
Baumgart heard many students asked their parents to drive past the mural so they could show them where their handprints are.
“We received comments on how nice it looks and what a great idea it was,” she said.
Many people commented on how well organized the project was, Baumgart said.
“If only the weather would have cooperated fully, but the volunteers and teachers are remaining flexible,” she said. “Other groups, such as the high school, Sunny Day and homeschoolers, will have a chance soon. The pantry got extra food, too. So far, the process and the product have been the community project we thought it would be. I am so fortunate to be part of this.”