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Nonprofit organization expands effort of helping families put food on the table

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (KTTC)- Ruby’s Pantry began in 2003 and now helps out in more than 70 locations across Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Distribution at the Albert Lea Assembly of God got its start based off a successful effort in Sauk Centre and that good will is growing.

“So we started five and a half ago and it’s been a real blessing to our church and to the community,” said Grant Lohse, Ruby’s Pantry coordinator in Albert Lea. “We normally have roughly 300 participants that come out every month.”

Ruby’s Pantry helps people in Minnesota and Wisconsin feed their families. It partners with local groups like the Albert Lea Assembly of God to host distribution events once a month.

“People look forward to coming out,” Lohse said. “It becomes more than just coming to get their food items every month, it’s meeting with friends.”

Grace Lutheran Church in Austin is now also partnering with Ruby’s Pantry.

“The thing we kept hearing over and over was is that there are families in our area, not just Austin but in our area, that struggle from month to month to make ends meet,” said Bob Rosel, Ruby’s Pantry coordinator in Austin. “The idea for us was to help them stretch their financial dollar.”

Families in need bring $20 and leave with an abundance of food and household goods.

“So this isn’t just a church operation, we want everyone in the community to participate,” Rosel said. “There are no income or resident requirements. Nobody checks anything like that.”

And it’s not just about the need for food.

“It’s a ministry that not only meets the physical need of the people but also the spiritual,” said Lohse. “We have individuals that spend time praying with individuals that have come out to get their food.”

Grace Lutheran is hoping to replicate the success of the Albert Lea program. Volunteers are still needed.

“If you can just volunteer, that would be great,” said Rosel. “We need no less than 40 volunteers and more would be helpful for each distribution.”

Distributions events in Austin will be held the third Thursday of each month, with the first one on September 19.

“It’s really kind of a enjoyable satisfying thing to do and we have a lot of fun while we do it too,” Rosel said.

Of the $20 donation, 18 goes back to Ruby’s Pantry and 2 is set aside in a benevolence fund to help those in need in each community.

All you need to bring besides your donation is two tote bags.

Alex Tejada

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