LA CROSSE, Wis. – Two Viterbo alumni with significant leadership roles in the grocery business have stepped forward to donate 12,500 pounds of food as part of Viterbo’s 125th anniversary food drive and have now challenged the university community to match this amount.
Derek Burnstad, vice president of Burnstad’s Markets and Mark Skogen, president and CEO of Festival Foods, pledged to meet the entire 12,500-pound original goal Viterbo sought to collect throughout the year. With this generous gift from its alumni in hand, the university is now doubling its goal to 25,000 pounds of food.
Burnstad and Skogen decided to donate tons of food—over six tons that is—when the two talked about ways to get involved in Viterbo’s 125th celebration. The Viterbo graduates cited their ties to Viterbo and their respective company’s commitment to give back to the community as reasons for making the gift.
“This is an incredible act of generosity and it will make a real difference,” said Rick Artman, president of Viterbo University. “It is another example of how Viterbo alumni are making a difference by living Franciscan values. The challenge grant will increase the university’s overall goal to serve those in need in our community.”
The food donation is set to go to Viterbo’s food pantry and the Place of Grace. Now with the expanded collection goal, food will also be distributed to the newly opened La Crosse Warming Shelter, Centro Latino, and the Hunger Task Force.
A number of these sites have ties to Viterbo. The coordinator for Centro Latino is a Viterbo student, the two Place of Grace coordinators are also Viterbo students; the Viterbo food pantry is managed by the university’s campus ministry department, and the newly opened warming shelter is run by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse, is managed by a graduate of Viterbo’s servant leadership program.
Sharing a common bond and having ties to all of the sites designated for food donations are the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, founders of Viterbo University.
Burnstad is a 2005 graduate of Viterbo. Burnstad’s Markets has stores located in Spencer, Tomah, Black River Falls, and Richland Center. Skogen graduated from Viterbo University in 1992. Festival Foods is a family-owned grocery store with 19 locations throughout Wisconsin.
Viterbo’s campus ministry will organize the food distribution as well as the ongoing collection of food, which will take place on the Viterbo campus throughout the academic year.