By Chris Barlow
Wauwatosa resident Susan Reed was hired in January 2023 as the Managing Director for Blessings in a Backpack, a charitable organization that provides for the needs of food-insecure children in Waukesha County. Reed brings over 15 years of experience working in the non-profit industry that includes the ALS Association and the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.
“I am excited and honored to be a part of the Blessings in a Backpack team,” Reed said. “Although we currently feed over 3,600 kids in Waukesha County, there is still more work to be done.”
Reed lives in north central Tosa with her three children. Jack 27, Delaney 24, and Kelley 21, and her husband Michael. They enjoy what Tosa has to offer for families including the music scene and numerous restaurant options.
“I love Wauwatosa, we have been here for almost 30 years,” Reed said. “I watched it grow into an amazing community with all of the restaurants and activities going on.” Reed, who grew up in Pardeeville, WI, and her family really enjoy Tosa Tonight as her son Jack is a drummer in several bands and her husband dabbles with a guitar. “It’s been fun as a Tosa resident to watch the facility being built,” Reed said. “Every Wednesday night it is jam-packed.”
Blessings In a Backpack
Blessings in a Backpack currently “bridges the weekend gap” for 3,600 hungry children in Waukesha County across six school districts. Reed said there are 11,000 children in the county who are eligible for their assistance, and this gives room for growth.
“If a new school is interested in getting our help, we first need to secure funding,” Reed said. “To be able to make the program work for that school we need the fundraising to be sustainable for three to five years.”
Reed said that fundraising is one of the main parts of her day-to-day duties, which includes putting on events like “Bridge the Gap” with presenting sponsor Bank Five Nine. This event will take place at the Marriot West in Waukesha on October 12th, and tickets are $125 each with full tables and sponsorships also available for purchase.
The independently funded Waukesha County Chapter for Blessings in a Backpack was established in 2012 and soon after began feeding 25 children at Hatfield Elementary School. The plan is to continue to expand their efforts in the county, but there is also a long-term goal of assisting the needs of children all over the state.
“Our goal is to fill the need in Waukesha County and then look at Milwaukee County and maybe SE Wisconsin in general as the next step in growth,” Reed said. “The ultimate goal is to become the Wisconsin Blessings in a Backpack chapter and so as we grow, we will continue to add on more and more schools and volunteer organizations.”
She said that Covid had a profound effect on the volume of children that need their services after it affected many families’ ability to put food on the table.
In addition to fundraising, Reed cites the need to increase awareness of food insecurity and of her organization’s role in the community.
“We are working on building brand awareness and letting people know we are independently funded and that we need their help so we can grow and help those 11,000 kids in need,” Reed said.
A statement in a release from Blessings in a Backpack sums it up well: “Together, we can light the path to a hunger-free future for these children. With each meal we provide, with every backpack we fill, we make a resounding statement: no child should face hunger.”
For more information or to purchase tickets for upcoming events go to waukesha.blessingsinabackpack.org