UW-Stout service efforts at the core of faculty, students’ engagement opportunities

Teams help pack more than 50,000 meals for regional families, students in need; student clubs see ‘positive impact’ of community work
Faculty, staff, students and community members helped pack 50,112 meals for regional food shelves.
Abbey Goers | October 9, 2023

From food drives to blood drives, raking leaves to tying blankets, civic engagement is one of UW-Stout’s enduring commitments to its surrounding neighbors, and at the core of preparing students to lead in their chosen fields and in their communities.

Through their dedication to service and bettering the human condition, UW-Stout faculty, staff and students this fall are living up to their civic duties to help Dunn County by volunteering at and organizing several events and activities.

“I have seen the large positive impact that service has on students as it gives them a deeper purpose, feels rewarding and roots them in the value of service that they will hopefully continue for the rest of their lives,” said Kalie Dahl, a hotel, restaurant and tourism management senior from Cologne, Minn.

Students helping at the Meal Pack-a-Thon
Teams helped the Rotary Club of Menomonie reach their goal of packing 100,000 meals this year for the Rotary's 100th anniversary. / UW-Stout

Partnering with the Menomonie Rotary Club's Rotary Feeds Program and local business partners, UW-Stout faculty, staff, students and community members recently volunteered at the annual Stout Gives Back: Meal Pack-a-Thon to Feed the Hungry event on Oct. 3.

A team 330-volunteers-strong surpassed the goal of packing 50,000 meals, reaching 50,112 meals to support Stepping Stones of Dunn CountyFeed My People Food Bank of northwestern Wisconsin and UW-Stout’s Helping Hand Food+ Pantry.

Rotary Feeds member Sue Traxler, assistant chancellor for Learning and Information Technology and chief information officer at UW-Stout, believes, “Service is an important component of what we do, both as employees and students at UW-Stout. The Meal Pack-a-Thon is a service opportunity that impacts our local communities, and it’s an easy way to support those who are hungry in the region.”

Meal packages at the Meal Pack-a-Thon event
Meals of rice, soy, vegetables and protein were packed for families and community members in need. / UW-Stout

Last year, staff and students packed 25,000 meals of rice, soy, vegetables and protein. This year, the goal was doubled to help the Menomonie Rotary Club reach 100,000 meals packed in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

“At Stout, we recognize the importance of our role in the region – both in preparing Wisconsin’s workforce and preparing students to lead in their communities,” said Chancellor Katherine Frank. “Applied learning and research depends on partnerships. It’s about connecting with and addressing the specific needs of society. Learning to solve big challenges starts when we do something simple and meaningful – like packing a meal, or 50,000.”

Inspired to serve their community

Social responsibility is a fundamental component of the Stout Core curriculum, a series of foundational classes that enhance students’ applied learning while building the soft skills in high demand by employers. 

Several student organizations go above and beyond in their volunteer activities and events outside of the classroom that support UW-Stout, Menomonie and area communities.

For the past two years, the Service Club at Stout volunteered at Night at the Mabel, the Mabel Tainter Theater’s annual fundraiser. Last year, members made more than 50 dog and cat toys for the Dunn County Humane Society and 21 tie blankets for Minnesota Children’s Hospital, as well as hats for babies born prematurely. They helped pack more than 24,400 meals for Feed My Starving Children and donated more than 500 pounds of nonperishable food and other items during Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods, benefiting Stepping Stones. 

Service Club's tie blankets. Photo by Kalie Dahl
The Service Club tied blankets to donate to Minnesota's Children's Hospital. / Kalie Dahl

The club will continue these activities this year and will soon send out flyers about the Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods on Halloween, Tuesday, Oct. 31, so community members may prepare their donations. 

As part of homecoming week, Oct. 9, through Saturday, Oct. 14, Blue Devil Productions is hosting a Homecoming Food Drive Battle. The weeklong competition supports Helping Hand Food+ Pantry on campus. Donations may be brought to the Involvement Center in the Memorial Student Center.

The Stout Student Association Sustainability Council hosted its annual Campus Cleanup event in early October. On Friday, Nov. 3, students will make their way through Menomonie neighborhoods for the annual Fall Yard Cleanup to support citizens by raking leaves. The Involvement Center works with the Dunn County Aging and Disability Resource Center for the event, which began as a part of StoutReach in 2016, to connect students with the community.

Students will help with fall yard cleanup in Menomonie neighborhoods on Nov. 3. / UW-Stout

The Service Club and Alpha Phi will also be hosting an American Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, in the Memorial Student Center Great Hall. Last year, they held four drives, and more than 190 donors potentially saved 523 lives​.

Dahl founded the Service Club during the 2022-23 school year and serves as president. “I am continuously inspired to serve, as every time I visibly see the impact that this club is making, I reflect on how so many helping hands made this happen and how there is always so much more that we can do,” she said.

In its first year, club members gave 380 volunteer hours at multiple community events.

The Rotary Feeds Program has packed more than 1.6 million meals since 2011. Stepping Stones has pop-up pantries across Dunn County and had 12,200 visits in 2022, distributing 615,000 pounds of food. Feed My People serves more than 70,000 people in 14 west central Wisconsin counties, with 5.85 million meals distributed in 2022.

The pack-a-thons are facilitated through the Rotary Feeds program. UW-Stout partnered with the Rotary Clubs of Menomonie and nine local businesses to fund the university’s event: Johnson MotorsMayo Clinic Health SystemDairy State BankPember Companies Inc.Edward JonesConagra, WESTconsin Credit UnionCedar Falls Building Systems and WMG.


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