In the first six months of operation, Ruby's Pantry in Cohasset has assisted the hungry of the area with thousands of pounds of food. The new location opened in July of 2011, and is one of 32 different Ruby's Pantry distribution sites. In part because of expansion of services and sites, 2011 was a record year for Ruby's Pantry donations, providing nearly 6 million pounds of food to more than 70,000 families across Minnesota and Wisconsin.
And in the only half year that the Cohasset branch has been in operation, it has served nearly 2,500 participants more than 138,000 pounds of food. According to Erin Skalicky, Administrative Assistant for Ruby's Pantry main office in Pine City, Minn., the Cohasset site is becoming "one of our bigger sites."
"It has been absolutely phenomenal," said Ruby's Pantry Cohasset Area Coordinator MaryLee Raley about the work the program has done to combat hunger in Itasca County.
The Cohasset Ruby's Pantry is operated and organized by Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. As an outreach program of Home and Away Ministries, a faith-based 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, all branches are sponsored by local churches. Despite the religious affiliation, Ruby's Panty is open to all who are suffering from hunger, regardless of their personal beliefs. There are also no income guidelines for participation in the program.
Essentially, how it works is as follows: On the third Tuesday of the month, the doors open at Our Redeemer at 2 p.m. At 3:30, the sale of $15 shares for food begins. With said shares, individuals then go to the Cohasset Community Center where they receive between $50 to $150 worth in food.
All Ruby's Pantry food comes from donations, making it possible for the program to give as much as they do with such a small donation. Many food corporations make monthly donations to the program, which is organized and shipped out from the central office in Pine City, Minn.
"As an example, Golden Plump Chicken has donated over $1 million annually to Ruby's Pantry to be distributed amongst all the different sites to give to people," said Raley.
Raley further explained how companies, such as Golden Plump, have to make sure that they have enough product in order to supply the grocery stores that place orders with them. Inevitably, there will be excess in so as to make sure they are not short. The excess product is then donated to Ruby's Pantry.
Another element of how Ruby's Pantry has affected the community over the past half year is the benevolence fund. With each $15 donation, 20 percent of the money is put aside into the benevolence fund, which is then used to help community members with an assortment of different needs. A committee at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church considers each request. In the past six months, the benevolence fund has been used to help those in need fill propane tanks, purchase gas cards for those who need to travel for medical care, and even assist with rent. To date, $7,359 has been collected for the benevolence fund, and roughly $2,500 has been put back into the community.
"We are very pleased that we were selected as one of the Ruby's Pantry sites. The reason we are so pleased that we were able to do this is that the Cohasset site is such a blessing to so many people," said Raley. "And we're not competing with grocery stores. We're not competing with food shelves or anything else. This is just a hand-out in brotherly love."
For more information on Ruby's Pantry, contact Our Redeemer Lutheran Church at 218-328-5165. Tuesday, Jan. 17, is the next distribution date.