Two hours before kickoff of Sunday's Packers-Dolphins game, Paul's Pantry volunteer Nancy Voegtline, admitted she was a little worried that this year's Packers Women's Association (PWA) Annual Food Drive for Paul's Pantry might not meet their expectations. However, as fans continued to enter Lambeau Field, Voegtline's worries went away.
"At first I was a little worried because we weren't getting as many food donations," Voegtline said. "But as it got closer to game time, the donations started filling up the crate. It's great to see so many contributions being made. Both the money and food donations have been very generous and I know that they will be much appreciated."
The effort marked the PWA's 24th Annual Food Drive for Paul's Pantry, a supplementary food distribution program for the needy in the greater Green Bay area. Festival Foods helped promote the effort. The PWA, which is an arm of the Green Bay Packers organization, is a non-profit organization whose main focus is to support the community through various outreach programs.
Heading this year's food drive were Laura Hawk, wife of Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, and Jen Zimmerman, fiancé of fullback Korey Hart. Both Hawk and Zimmerman helped collect donations at various Lambeau Field entrances prior to the game.
And despite a tough economy, Laura Hawk was both pleased and very thankful with this year's food drive.
"We're very appreciative of all the fans' contributions today," Hawk said. "With the state of the economy, a lot of people are less able to support these types of efforts, but they still came out strong today. Everyone was in good spirits and really helped the cause. We're especially thankful for the volunteers that helped make this year another success."
As fans entered the gates to the stadium, large crates were on display to collect the non-perishable food items. Along with the crates at the four stadium entrances, several volunteers pushed Festival Foods grocery carts around the parking lots to collect even more donations.
Two volunteers, Helen Falk and her son, Matthew, made their way through the Tundra Tailgate Zone, and with an hour remaining until kickoff, their cart was nearly full.
"So far, everyone has been making generous donations," Falk said. "More money donations have been made than food, but every bit helps. All those donations help pay for the entire Paul's Pantry facility and they will be a great contribution."
Her son, Matthew, who was also volunteering, was surprised to see donations being made from all kinds of fans.
"I was surprised to see even Miami fans making donations," Matthew Falk said. "I think that's awesome, I didn't expect to see that."
This year proved to be another success as PWA collected $11,462 cash donations and 13,600 food items. Overall, in 24 years of conducting the food drive, the PWA has collected approximately 616,800 non-perishable food items and $237,531 for Paul's Pantry.
Dick and Diane Wendt, who traveled all the way from Grand Rapids, Mich., made their donation upon entering the game.
"We are happy to make a donation to the food drive," Diane Wendt said. "We are season ticket holders and even though we live all the way in Michigan, we try to make it to almost every game," she said.
In typical fashion, Sunday's game had its plethora of die-hard fans. Two fans from Dale, Wis., Chris Schuelke and Jane Thiel, expressed their dedication to the team with their gameday attire, which consisted of everything from a football leatherhead hat to large green and gold bead necklaces, to green and gold shoelaces, which were only a few of their accessories.
"We always like to get decked out for each game," Chris Shuelke said. "Today I came with my sister and we're ready to have some fun."
Seven-year-old Logan Lauterbach from Windsor, Wis., made sure to show his true colors – at least all over his head.
"I made sure to cover my whole head before we left for the game," Lauterbach said of his green hairdo.
Although he may have made a little bit of mess back home, he was proud to support his team.
One group of fans got the opportunity to enjoy the gameday experience up close, right on the field. Six hundred high school students from the Fox Valley area took the field to provide the halftime entertainment.
The chance to perform during halftime is one that does not come along often for many high school marching bands. In fact Sunday's group is the only marching band to be given the opportunity this season.
Kandi Goltz, the Packers' game and fan development manager, was very impressed with both the energetic performance and the students' ability to make such a large band ensemble work so well.
"Each school knew in advance what songs they would perform," Goltz said. "But really, they didn't have much time to practice together as a unit. Prior to Sunday's game, all 600 students and their directors met at the Don Hutson Center to practice before heading to the stadium and performing in front of the 70,000 plus fans.
"The kids really did an awesome job and I think they all had a great time today."
When Nicole Vanherwynen from Menasha High School made her way back through the Packers field tunnel, the smile on her face proved just how much she enjoyed her time on the field.
"It was really amazing," Vanherwynen said. "It was so energetic and so much fun down there. At first it was kind of scary, but then once we got going, it was great."
Click here to see photos from Sunday's non-game action.