Winona Volunteer Services (WVS) was incorporated in 1973.

The individuals who organized and incorporated WVS were all active in their respective churches including clergy from Saint Mary’s University. The agency was first located in a two story wood frame house located at 109 West Broadway, directly across the street from Central United Methodist Church. The church rented the building annually to WVS for $1.00. The structure was torn down in 1987 after WVS moved to its second location at 71 East Second Street. WVS operated out of this two story location until it moved to a one story building at 416 East Second Street in May of 1998. Roger Parks, the very first chairman of the Board of Directors, identified WVS as a federation of seven volunteer groups within Winona that serve the needs of the community by utilizing volunteer help. He said the group was founded to promote volunteerism in Winona, to serve as a central organization to coordinate the efforts made by various volunteer groups and to provide a central fund raising organization for its members thus eliminating each group having to seek funds for its operation independently.

The past helping services provided by the member groups of WVS included: Home Delivered Meals, a 24 hour “crisis hot line”, a used clothing service, an emergency service 24 hour answering service, a natural foods program, and a teenage community service project. The companionship program for senior citizens, a babysitting referral service, Court Services volunteers, a transportation program, a furniture exchange service and a big brother/big sister program were added in following years. The emergency food shelf and the senior citizen food shelf were not created until 1982 in response to the economic recession and in part due to the beginning of the federal government’s surplus food program.  Then in 1998, the senior citizen food shelf turned into a food shelf open to all eligible clientele who meet the income and residency guidelines.

Sorting food
Winona Food Shelf
Volunteers painting the new Winona Volunteer Services building

Since 2000, the monthly food shelf experienced a 45% increase in monthly usage. This increase in food shelf usage prompted the board and staff to examine the feasibility of expanding the food shelf. The initial planning began in late 2003.  The initial focus was on remodeling and re-configuring the existing building at 416 East Second Street. By February 2004, the board formed an ad-hoc committee. This committee spent a great deal of time addressing the desired outcomes for this remodeling plan. Then, after looking at this building a second time, the committee spent months examining the benefits and costs associated with purchasing this additional space. In September 2005, the board approved the purchase of this building using reserve funds and we started remodeling in January 2006.

The 402 East Second Street building houses the office staff, the food shelf, and a multipurpose room equipped with kitchen amenities. We use this space for classes in nutrition, meal planning and food sampling. We have a prime opportunity to capture the attention of our clients and provide them with guidance and information for making better food choices. Today, the activities of this organization are very straight forward: to secure and distribute food, clothing, information, referrals, and emergency assistance in a respectful and dignified manner to people in need. The agency operates a food shelf that is open 5 days a week, coordinates the home delivered meals programs within the cities of Winona and Goodview, administers emergency assistance to those needing financial assistance and operates a used clothing store. The agency has four employees; Executive Director, Volunteer Coordinator, Client Services Coordinator and a Nutrition & Health Educator and relies on over 300 volunteers to keep the programs operational. A volunteer board governs the agency, actively setting the strategic direction for the agency, and providing financial accountability to ensure the funding is used properly.