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Ruby's Pantry fills cupboards in Menahga

Lynn Litzau, a Ruby's Pantry committee member, helps load up a box of food Saturday morning at the distribution in Menahga. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Ruby's Pantry in Menahga has completed a successful first year of feeding and providing assistance to families and individuals in the community.

Karol Andreasen, program coordinator in Menahga, said she has felt good about helping people in the community.

"We've been able to help so many people," she said.

The program is simple. Food is delivered by a semi truck and placed in a line with tables. Volunteers put the food on the tables and pass it out as people come through the line with the boxes or containers they brought. When they arrive they register, sign a liability waiver and are given a number. Everyone has the opportunity to pay $15 to cover fuel costs. Andreasen emphasized that the $15 does not pay for the food.

Food is provided without questions. No one is turned away or obligated to contribute. Often, families leave with more than $100 worth of groceries.

"Many people are experiencing change in their lives during these uncertain economic times," Andreasen said in a letter outlining the program. "People losing their jobs, their homes, their families and their dignity is not the kind of change that is positive. But there is more to life than things, even when the necessities are running low."

Right now the program is the first Saturday of the month at Assumption of Our Lady Catholic Church. This past Saturday marked one year since the program started in Menahga.

Ruby's Pantry is about picking up corporate surplus, distributing it to community partners and into the hands of people, Andreasen said.

"I think we're most proud of our crisis fund," she added.

A portion of the donations goes toward a fund used to help individuals in the community pay an electric bill or get to a medical appointment, for example.

Over the last year, hundreds of local volunteers have stepped up, Andreasen estimates.

"Sometimes it is hard to tell who is greater blessed, those receiving the food or those who give it," said Lynn Litzau, committee member.

The Menahga committee provided some statistics about Ruby's Pantry.

n Ruby's Pantry has over 24 food distributions throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

n The mission of Ruby's Pantry is to procure and distribute corporate surplus food and goods to help fight poverty, hunger and disease in rural communities in the United States for those with low resources and in crisis through churches, food shelves and other local civic organizations.

n With 25-30 volunteers per distribution, the Menahga site has donated over 2,500 volunteer hours in the past year serving those in need.

n Of the $15 received each month $12 goes back to the Ruby's for expenses and $3 of that money stays in the community.

Each month a portion of the proceeds go back to the community to individuals in need. If 250 people are served, Menahga's group receives $750 of funds to use for expenses and those in need. Over the last year more than $3,000 was used to help individuals in need.

n On average Ruby's serve 250 families each month from a wide variety of regions including Menahga, Park Rapids, Akeley, Nevis, Wadena, Perham and Sebeka.

n Ruby's Pantry, in the historical sense, is a food bank providing food to food shelves, organizations, churches and on-site food distributions in communities in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. It presently serves more 3,000 families in its community distribution program. The ministry is supported primarily by private, individual donations and has no government funding.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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