By Hayley Crandall
What started out as just an idea and an anonymous donation has taken on a life of its own, according to Chris Wiken, the general manager of the Packing House.
For a few weeks now, The Packing House, a family-owned restaurant on the south side, has been delivering fish fry dinners to local seniors. The operation is possible thanks to the donations made by community members. The dinners include The Packing House’s signature fish fry and a slice of banana cream pie.
Seniors are selected through a nomination process. Family or friends of a senior can email or Facebook message the restaurant to nominate someone. Delivery services operate within a five-mile radius of the restaurant in order to keep the meals as fresh as possible, Wiken said.
In total, the restaurant has given out a couple hundred meals, and delivers about 20 to 30 meals each week, according to Wiken.
“We have volunteers that make the delivery,” said Wiken. “We map out the route for efficiency then we do about 10 to 15, come back to the restaurant, reload, and do the next. It’s kind of on a time slot system.”
Due to the fact the program only runs on patrons’ donations, The Packing House didn’t think it would last very long, Wiken said, however just before it dies down, someone steps up and brings it back.
“We thought it was only last a week,” said Wiken. “But when we start dwindling down to a few left to give out we’ll get another rush of donations. It’s kind of just taken a life of its own. It’s very cool and it’s very rewarding.”
Community response for the “Fish Fries for Seniors” has been so great that The Packing House has added an online donation option along with taking the standard in-house donations.
It’s been beneficial and rewarding for everyone, from families to volunteers, he said.
“Everyone has benefited from it,” said Wiken. “The folks that are nominating people I think feel somewhat rewarded that they were able to reward a family member or friend. It’s certainly helped to boost our morale, as well. The folks that receive these are so kind and so happy to be thought of.”
This isn’t the first time The Packing House has been dedicated to giving back to the community. For a few years now, they have been giving fish fries to various groups across Milwaukee through their “Heart of Milwaukee” program.
They’ve shared meals with people from library staffs to non-profit organizations, and the seniors’ program now functions as its own sort of extension.
“We try find many ways to try to give back to the community,” said Wiken. “And it usually focuses in on our fish fries and the people around us.”