For the last three years Copperopolis residents who use the Food Pantry have also had free clothing made available to them. This is thanks to Shirley Wunder and her friend Jan Riley, both members of Copper Canyon Baptist Church, where the “Copper Closet” began. When Lake Tulloch Bible Church opened The Bridge on Copper Cove Drive and invited the Food Pantry there for distributions on Third Thursdays, these ladies saw the usefulness of locating the Copper Closet there as well, even though it meant setting up outdoors. For more information, visit the website, www.copperpantry.org . There is a link for the Copper Closet labeled “other ministries.”
In February, sixty-two families came to the Pantry, so perhaps many of them found free clothing at the Closet. Donations of clean and lightly-used clothing are appreciated, with children’s clothes being the most needed. Shirley and her volunteers sort and store the clothes in plastic totes and then have them displayed on tables at Third Thursday. Monetary donations are accepted for buying more tables and storage totes. Having a building to house the Copper Closet is a far-off dream. In the meantime, Providence has protected it from bad weather every third Thursday for the last three years!
The Copper Closet is only one of many ways Shirley Wunder has been involved with this community. She seems to love the variety of people and tasks that have come her way over the years and exclaims how “interesting” both her volunteer and paid work has been. Since moving to Copperopolis 30 years ago, she has worked at many food service occupations, from running the Country Café on Copper Cove Drive, to planning parties for the former Poker Flat Lodge at Lake Tulloch. For fifteen years, she worked in the kitchen at the Sierra Conservation Center, overseeing inmate- cooks and training them for cooking in the fire camps. Most recently Shirley organized food service out of the Sonora Fairgrounds facility for evacuees of the Rim Fire, as well as for the firefighters.
Shirley is frequently the go-to person when an organization such as the Lions Club needs to cook for a fundraiser since she has experience with planning meals for large groups. The recent Crab Feed was one of her projects with the Lions, and it successfully raised money for the Lions’ scholarship program. It was the Lions who called on her to serve the food needs created by the Rim Fire. Shirley has belonged to the Lions for 20 years and has chaired many Lions projects.
From her experience managing meals for large groups, Shirley has distilled advice for those wanting to learn to do the same. Number one is to TAKE NOTES! She says you need to think about what you did last time and what you will do differently next time. Sometimes improvisation is a key skill, for example, when cooking from donations that vary unpredictably, such as during the Rim Fire. One of the biggest tasks can be figuring the quantity of ingredients required, whether preparing for three hundred or three thousand. The prison cooks were learning to do both as they cooked daily for around 3000, but would later be called on to cook for around 300 in the fire camps.
Being widowed in 1990 and retired since 2009, Shirley recognized her need to stay involved, useful and a little bit busy. She likes having time to work on projects for Copper Canyon Baptist and for the local library, where she serves on the board of Friends of the Library. As she says, “I’m not much of a TV watcher, and anyway, you can’t do that all the time!”