The Neighbor to Neighbor began in the fall of 2003. Linda Schmidt had just been ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church and assigned to three churches: Ascension in Merrill, St. Barnabas in Tomahawk and St. Ambrose in Antigo. Under the direction of her priest, the three churches got a group of about 20 people together to study the effects of poverty in their communities. They read a book called “Nickel and Dimed,” on not getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. It was about the struggle of those who were not able to make ends meet and how difficult it was to survive on minimum wage. About the same time, it was Linda’s birthday and one of her daughters called and asked if she could do something different for her mother that year.
Instead of giving her mother a present, she wondered if she could answer an ad in a column of her local newspaper. The column was called “For Goodness Sake.” It advertised the needs of people who could not afford much and asked the community to respond. Linda told her that would be great and to please send the article to her. Linda brought it to their next “poverty” meeting and after some discussion, they all voted to try it in all three towns. That was the beginning.
In 2008, Deacon Linda was reassigned to just Merrill. The ministry continued in Tomahawk and Antigo with different churches, but with Deacon Linda only serving in Merrill, many of those who helped in the other communities dropped out and some moved away and over the years some even passed on. But nevertheless, the Merrill group had placed 1,441 ads in the Foto News and the Merrill Courier over the past 11 ½ years.
“There is nothing more satisfying than bringing to a family’s doorstep, something that they need and cannot afford!” Deacon Linda states. “Merrill is a generous and helping community and I was able to bring so many wonderful things to people. It not only benefited them, it kept lots of things out of the landfill! And whenever we do what our faith says is important, we know we are doing the right thing.”
Last month Ascension Church gave over this wonderful ministry to St. Vincent De Paul.
“It fits into their mission in Merrill and I know they will do a great job!” stated Deacon Linda.
“I want to thank the generous people of our town for all their donations,” she added. “I want to thank the Foto News and the Merrill Courier for donating the space for the column and I hope and pray that all of the residents of Merrill will continue to read the ads and keep donating wonderful things to fill the needs of those who struggle. May God bless you all!”
St. Vincent wants to thank Deacon Linda for all the work she has put into this program. Neighbor to Neighbor makes the concerns of our neighbors in need known to the community and then coordinates this need with the gift of another. It is now a ministry of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 503 S. Center Ave., Merrill. If you have a need or have any questions regarding this program please call 715-539-2666 or see our weekly ad in this newspaper.