Cooks work to prepare meals for those in need in the Barron County community. (Submitted photo)

In 2008, the St. Joseph Conference of St. Vincent de Paul took over the management of the thrift store, meal site and the pantry and have been serving the community of Rice Lake and Barron County ever since.

The conference recognizes that many neighbors hit a rough patch and need a helping hand, and to that end have been providing assistance to meet basic needs for Barron County residents.

Through the generosity of shoppers and donors, the conference has distributed more than $85,058 in free items from the thrift store. The meal site has served 258,893 meals, and the pantry has distributed 4,510,444 pounds of groceries.

Records show that many neighbors are working at one or two low-paying jobs and do not make sufficient income to meet all their expenses.
The conference members have made more than 3,857 home visits and assisted nearly 10,000 people. Financial assistance has totaled a little more than $345,661.

Plans for the future include reinstituting a credit-builder small dollar loan program, in which the conference offers neighbors a small loan for immediate needs, such as a set of tires for the car that they use to get to work. The loans are offered through Community Bank and are underwritten by the conference and help neighbors who have not been familiar with banking or loan repayment develop these skills and build their credit.

Early on in the pandemic, the St. Vincent de Paul Society instituted up-to-date disinfecting procedures approved by Marshfield Clinic to keep both premises free of infection. Even now, they continue to disinfect regularly.

The conference is often asked when the dining room will reopen and when families can return to choosing their own food. At this time, they cannot reopen until sometime in September, per restrictions required by TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) of the federal government.

One big step the conference has taken recently is increasing the wages of all employees. As of June 14, the minimum wage after the 90-day probation period will be $15 per hour.

“Through our work with our neighbors we better understand the needs of county residents and more recently the unforeseen consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic,” a spokesperson said. “We hope to better the lives of people living in Barron County and that includes our own staff who help us in this mission of charity.”

For more information or to help, visit the St. Vincent de Paul website at or call 715-234-2372.