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Diana Schmidt Property and casualty consultant, principal Hausmann-Johnson Insurance Nonprofit served: Blessings in a Backpack Waukesha County Service: Vice president of the board
Diana Schmidt was participating in the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s leadership development program three years ago when she was tasked with identifying a community problem she wanted to solve and practical steps she could take to address it.
She jotted down “hunger” and endeavored to work toward the ambitious goal of eliminating it.
Through the same program, Schmidt, a property and casualty consultant and principal at Hausmann-Johnson Insurance’s Pewaukee office, made connections to Blessings in a Backpack of Waukesha County, the local chapter of a national nonprofit program that provides food on the weekend for school children who might otherwise go hungry. The program is intentionally inconspicuous in its delivery of food, with volunteers filling backpacks and placing them in children’s lockers to take home on Friday.
Schmidt was drawn to the mission after talking with the chapter’s founders, who recounted how they grew the program from distributing food to 25 students in one Waukesha school in 2012 to now feeding 1,700 students in Waukesha, Oconomowoc, Sussex and Hartland. It was eye-opening for Schmidt to hear about the prevalence of food insecurity in Waukesha County, she said.
“Listening to their story was really impressive to me,” Schmidt said. “These women were just a group of friends that decided to do something to help hunger, and they just started doing it. They started small and built and built until it got to the place where it is today.”
Schmidt began volunteering with the organization, doing odd jobs, like packing boxes and delivering food, on Friday afternoons. When chapter founder Regina Estrada decided to retire in late 2019, she recruited Schmidt to serve on the board.
Schmidt’s first meeting was March 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools and introduced new challenges to the program’s delivery model.
“Some of the kids weren’t even at school anymore, some food distributors had supply chain issues. We just had issue after issue to try to work through,” Schmidt said. “At times it’s been stressful, but we still were able to continue to feed kids. We had a stronger need, there were more kids that needed the support, and we fed kids through the summer, which we never have done before.”
Schmidt has also found ways to draw her family into her volunteer work by having her children help with packing bags and hosting bake sales.
“I have two boys, 10-year-old twins,” she said. “We haven’t experienced food insecurity, so we’re lucky in that sense, but I’m trying to educate them that there are kids who are food insecure and having them come and volunteer has been a rewarding experience for our whole family.”