This story and accompanying photograph originally appeared in the March 2, 2016 Colfax (WI) Messenger and are reprinted here with permission. Photo and story are by LeAnn R. Ralph. When she was finished shopping at Kyle's Market, Nicole Nierenhausen had five shopping carts full of groceries and other supplies. So why did a Colfax High School senior buy five carts of groceries and supplies? For the Caring Ministries Food Pantry — with the $500 she earned from selling Girl Scout cookies. Nicole, who as a senior is in her last year as a Girl Scout, says she wanted the money to benefit others in her community. If the money had not been spent on items for the food pantry, it would have gone to the Girl Scout office and been deposited into a “community fund,” she said. Since there are no Girl Scout community programs in the Colfax area, the money would not have been able to benefit the local community, Nicole said.

Bonnie Nierenhausen, Nicole's mother and also her Girl Scout leader, said Nicole sold 526 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, which netted $296. Additional money was available in the Girl Scout troop's account. “Nicole really wanted to have $500 to spend for the food pantry, so we supplemented from her Girl Scout fund with another $104,” Bonnie explained. As was the case this year, for the past 13 years, Nicole has been the top seller of Girl Scout cookies in her troop. “We're pretty proud of her, thinking to give back to the community,” Bonnie said. Nicole is the daughter of Bruce and Bonnie Nierenhausen.

Kyle Kressin, owner of Kyle's Market, helped Nicole shop. To make the money go farther, Kressin figured the price of each item at cost. Geri Bates, coordinator of the Caring Ministries Food Pantry, which is operated by Colfax United Methodist Church, provided a list of items needed in the food pantry. “I gave Nicole a list of items that we could use for Support For Sunday,” said Geri Bates, who, along with her husband, Ernie, and Pastor Craig Conklin of Colfax United Methodist, is a co-coordinator for the Caring Ministries Food Pantry. The food pantry also needed other items, such as laundry detergent, Bates noted. The Support For Sunday backpack program provides food for 32 backpacks every week. Nicole Nierenhausen is a member at Colfax United Methodist. When the Colfax Kiwanis Club gives out scholarships to students who have graduated from Colfax High School, “I always encourage them to come back and give something back to Colfax, if they can. This is really something for a young lady who is not even out of high school yet,” Kressin said. When they were finished shopping, Nicole's carts were filled with peanut butter, spaghetti, hot cocoa, elbow macaroni, brownie mixes, pasta salad mixes, cases of cereal, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry detergent and paper products, such as facial tissues and toilet paper,

While Nicole knows that the items will benefit many families in the area, she is glad that much of it will be used for the Support For Sunday backpack program. In the Support For Sunday program, volunteers pack food that is sent home with Colfax Elementary students in need on Fridays to help the family mitigate food insecurity over the weekend. The program is completely anonymous. Volunteers have no idea for whom they are packing food. The packages are delivered to the school, and teachers place the food in backpacks while students are out of the room. “I really hope a lot of it can be used for Support For Sunday. It must make them so happy,” Nicole said. Brownie mixes are not typically part of the Support For Sunday list of items because they are expensive, relatively speaking, but the food pantry coordinators like to include a box of brownie mix at least once a year, Bonnie explained. Kyle Kressin hauled the items Nicole purchased to the Caring Ministries Food Pantry and brought along help to unload, she noted.

Nicole Nierenhausen plans to attend college after she graduates from high school this spring and become a speech therapist. “We're hoping she can come back and work in this area as a speech therapist. We are so proud of all that she has accomplished,” Bonnie Nierenhausen said.