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Passing the plate during the pandemic


photo courtesy Riverwest Food Pantry

We have learned through the pandemic that virtual interactions are better than losing touch. We’ve also seen increased need from neighbors who have been disrupted by repercussions from COVID-19.

To mark those two trends, Landaas & Company scaled down its 2020 employee holiday party to a virtual event and donated what it would have cost for an in-person gathering to the Riverwest Food Pantry.

“During this pandemic, it’s so important to pay attention to people that are desperate at this point, people that are lost, people that are last, people that have the least,” Bob Landaas said in a special Money Talk Podcast on giving.

Traditionally, Landaas & Company staff and partners dress up and meet out for an evening of dining and mingling amid live music, always capped off with holiday sing-alongs featuring Banjo Goddess Lisa Edgar.

In downsizing 2020 festivities, Bob decided to divert resources to hunger relief. Food insecurity has more than doubled during the pandemic, affecting 23.5% of U.S. households, according to researchers at Northwestern University. In other words, about one in four households nationwide hasn’t been able to find enough food to meet their needs or didn’t know where they’d get their next meal. Such uncertainty is even more likely in households with children, among families of color and with adults who have disabilities.

Bob’s interest in hunger relief caught the attention of Landaas & Company Chief Financial Officer Dan La Nuez, who is on the finance committee and a former board member of the Riverwest Food Pantry. Dave Sandstrom, Landaas & Company vice president and investment advisor, voluntarily manages the nonprofit’s investments.

The Riverwest Food Pantry began in 1979 from Milwaukee’s East Side Housing Action Committee. In 2019, it distributed 275,000 pounds of food to 13,000 individuals.

Since 2013, the agency has broadened its mission beyond relieving hunger to connecting families and individuals to additional social services. It also builds community support through 4,000 trained volunteers.

In his involvement, Dan said, he has witnessed how the Riverwest Food Pantry has grown from providing food to transforming neighborhoods.

Landaas & Company employees still celebrated the holidays together via videoconferencing, with five-minute small-group breakouts interspersed with rounds of bingo. Reuben and Lauren Neese delivered wine, cookies, bingo cards and daubers to employees’ homes in advance of the party. Bob made donations to charities chosen by each bingo game winner.

In the special Thanksgiving podcast, Bob explained how giving is his favorite thing to do with money. He and Kyle Tetting discussed ways investors can consider to give wisely.

“In this time of pandemic and there’s so much need out there, I encourage folks to step up to the plate,” Bob said. “But because we’re money people, we try to do it the smart way.”

Learn more
2020 Thanksgiving Money Talk Podcast, with Bob Landaas and Kyle Tetting, including links to additional resources
Riverwest Food Pantry
(initially posted December 31, 2020)

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