GILBERT — For Connie Elg, it “started with that truckload of potatoes.”
Last fall Ruby’s Pantry, a Minnesota and Wisconsin organization that provides families with groceries for a small donation, brought 16 pallets of potatoes to Gilbert, and Elg’s parents, LeRoy and Jean Salo, helped distribute them. Elg inquired about having a Ruby’s Pantry locate on the Range. She was successful, and the first distribution of groceries will be 4:30 to 6 p.m. with registration at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Clinton Township Hall on Highway 37.
“With a cash donation of $15, people can receive $75 to $100 worth of groceries,” Elg said in a telephone interview. “There are no income guidelines. Sometimes people need that extra hand.” She said when a family’s money is in limited supply, often what gets cut from the budget is groceries. That’s where Ruby’s Pantry comes in, Elg said.
In securing Ruby’s Pantry on the Range, Elg first needed to find a location, and the Clinton hall worked out. Ellefson Off Highway, a firm from Iron, is providing a forklift to unload the supplies. Elg’s church, United in Christ Lutheran of Eveleth, chose to be a sponsor, she said. The groceries are corporate surplus “all name-brand products” from manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers, Elg said, and the program is not government-funded. In the past she would go to Brookston or Cohasset for supplies, and “they’re an hour away,” she said.
Elg said of the $15 donation, $12 goes to Ruby’s Pantry to keep the program going and $3 remains in the community. Most of the work is done on a volunteer basis, with just a few paid staff members.
The official Ruby’s Pantry Website reads that the “best place to store surplus food is in people’s stomachs. We have made an effort locally to provide food to individuals without question. To qualify, they just have to be hungry and be able to eat.” Ruby’s Pantry is “a hand up, not a hand out” program. “Please bring cash to help to simplify bookkeeping and two large boxes or laundry baskets. We do not sell food.” The mission is “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.”
The organization is named in memory of Ruby A. Flodin, a Wisconsin woman who gave back to her community. It is a community outreach of Home and Away Ministries, a non-profit corporation, which began collecting toys to distribute to families in Mexico. However, they would receive a truckload of food for distribution instead, and in 2005 the program was able to purchase at a low price a large building in North Branch, Minn. Over the next few years the program began to grow and by 2008 two semi trucks were purchased, and in 2012 the 30 employees and thousands of volunteers of Ruby’s Pantry distributed more than 9 million pounds of food to 100,000 families in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
For more information contact Elg at 865-7023.