Caritas' Ambrose moving on

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BELOIT - Executive Director Donna Ambrose will be saying goodbye to Caritas.

After six years of service to the organization, she is accepting a new position at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin. Her last day at Caritas will be Sept. 22.

As the director of partnerships and programs at Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin, she will be responsible for all agency food distribution efforts including mobile pantries, the Foodshare Outreach Program, Hunger Care Coalition, childhood hunger programs and the Diabetes Wellness Program.

Caritas is a partner agency of the Second Harvest Food Bank and gets most of its food from the organization.

With Second Harvest Food Bank being responsible for 16 counties, Ambrose will be busy.

"It's an opportunity to take what I learned at Caritas and influence other pantries to try different and innovative ways to reach people," she said.

The board will be looking for a new executive director after the first of the year. For the remainder of 2017, Ambrose said Caritas will seek a part-time person to assist in the interim as it pursues a full-time executive director.

Because Ambrose will have to do a lot of driving through the 16 counties Second Harvest Food Bank covers, she will be moving closer to Madison.

Ambrose came to Caritas in 2011 after a 22-year career at Ecolab where she worked in procurement as a Lean Six Sigma project manager. During her time at Caritas the non-profit organization has cut costs, made its space more efficient and adopted a new service model.

Ambrose also led the charge to close down the clothing room in August in order to make more room for pantry services and to increase efficiency. She also helped launch the diaper bank which opened in May. Modeled like a boutique, people can walk in their own unique door and go shopping for baby clothes, items and diapers.

Caritas also offers senior grocery delivery; a school pantry at Merrill Elementary School; a backpack program at Hackett Elementary School and soon-to-be program at Todd; and groceries to homeless and unaccompanied students in the School District of Beloit.

On Surplus Saturday, extra produce is set out in the Caritas parking lot from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., or however long supplies last. It started over the summer as a pilot program and is going strong.

During her time at Caritas, Ambrose said she learned to listen to the people being served. The previous model used no longer served clients and she was willing to make changes.

She said it was heartbreaking to lose some of her clients over the years when they passed away. However, it was encouraging to know that many of them were able to stay in their homes longer thanks to getting food from Caritas.

"It makes you sad and then you recognize how important the work is," Ambrose said.

Ambrose noted clients have been grateful for food, with some of them pitching in to volunteer. Some who can't work often volunteer as their way of giving back. She said Caritas benefits from their help and the clients gain job skills.

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