By Michelle Pape

Tosa Cares Celebrates 10 years of Providing Assistance to the Community

Tosa cares. these two simple words not only capture the spirit of our great city, they make up the name of the charity that has been putting that spirit into action for the past decade. Since 2008, Tosa Cares, Inc. has been providing food and assistance to families in need, continuing the great work of the Tosa for Kids food pantry that came before it.

More than a Food Pantry

Housed at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Tosa Cares is operated solely by volunteers from the community who collect, organize, and distribute non-perishable food, personal care items, and clothing seven times a year. Over the course of a distribution weekend, volunteers will serve nearly 160 families, delivering food and other necessary resources.

Tosa Cares Coordinator Linda Ertel says those weekends offer families so much more than a box or two of food. They are provided with a range of assistance options to help meet their unique needs. Refreshments are served and guests have access to the clothing room, voter information, and nutritional advice. A librarian is on site to read stories to the children. Some distribution weekends even feature nurses from the health department, dental consultations, and massage therapy.

Tosa Cares works closely with the school district, churches, and the police department to identify families, who because of a crisis or health issue, may need extra help. Recipients live in Wauwatosa, as well as other parts of the Milwaukee area.
The impact the organization has had on the community has far surpassed initial goals. Ertel notes that the team began with the hope of helping 50 families per distribution. Today, the organization provides assistance to more than 1,100 families annually.

“It’s grown past our expectations of what we thought we could do,” said Ertel. “It’s amazing what can happen when people come together with a desire to help others. It’s really a beautiful story.”


Tosa Cares Wish List

The Tosa Cares pantry is always in need of the following items:

  • Cereal
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Canned fruits, vegetables, and juices
  • Rice, pastas, and spaghetti sauces
  • Canned proteins, such as chicken, tuna, and beef stew
  • Snacks, including granola bars, crackers, and popcorn
  • Hearty soups
  • Personal care items, including shampoo, hand soap, lotion, toothpaste, and toothbrushes
  • Toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, paper towel, and tissue
  • Dish soap and laundry detergent

Help stock the shelves before the summer distributions scheduled for June 16 and August 11, 2018.

It Takes a Village

Tosa Cares has been successful in achieving its mission because of the many community groups that have stepped up to champion its cause. Ertel said that involving youth has played a big role in increasing awareness of the need. Wauwatosa West’s Key Club has worked closely with the organization since the early days when it was the Tosa for Kids food pantry. Wauwatosa East’s National Honor Society is also involved, as are various schools and scouting groups from around the city. Recently Girl Scout Troop #10615 from Eisenhower Elementary donated 140 boxes of cookies.

kids from Tosa Cares

It was the enthusiasm of a few local Girl Scouts from Longfellow Middle School that helped create one of the city’s favorite holiday events in 2015, a visit from the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. 2017 marked the third year of the “All Aboard for Tosa Cares” event, in which spectators who come to see the train bring donations of non-perishable food items. According to Ertel, this event has been incredibly important to the organization, helping keep shelves stocked during the winter months. Organizers are hopeful that Wauwatosa will once again be a stop in 2018.

Tosa Cares is also part of the annual TosaFest event set to take place this year on Friday, September 7 and Saturday, September 8 at the Rotary Park Amphitheater and Hart Park. Attendees get free admission with a donation of two non-perishable food items to Tosa Cares. Volunteers are always needed to help at the “All Aboard for Tosa Cares” and TosaFest events.

Grateful Hearts Give Back

Gratitude inspires the team of volunteers at Tosa Cares to continue their important work. Ertel notes that they’ve all had times in their lives when they’ve needed help in one way or another. Being able to provide assistance to those in need is a way of giving thanks for that help and paying it forward.

“We’re so thankful to be able to help,” said Ertel. “And to be able to do it with kindness, respect, and a welcoming spirit.”

Help Wanted: 4 Ways to Support Tosa Cares

  1. Donate items: Drop off food and personal care items from the wish list, as well as clothing at these locations:
    Wisconsin Athletic Club
    8700 Watertown Plank Road
    Weekdays: 5am – 10pm
    Weekends: 6:30am – 7pm
    Mt. Zion Lutheran Church
    12012 W. North Avenue
    Weekdays: 9am – 3pm
    Sundays: 8:30am – 1pm
  2. Donate funds: Cash donations are used to make up for shortfalls of certain items, as well as purchase additional food such as meat and produce before distributions. Checks made out to Tosa Cares, Inc. can be mailed to the Mt. Zion address above.
  3. Volunteer: Helping hands are needed for a variety of tasks from sorting food and stocking shelves to assisting at community events and distribution days. Consider giving your time.
  4. Organize a donation drive: Are you looking for a service project for a group? Maybe you have a block party, run/walk, or other event coming up? Work with Tosa Cares to plan your own food or supply drive.

For more information on these opportunities visit or send a message to