When Ruby’s Pantry distributes food on Saturday, Sept. 15, it will do so from a new location.
The distribution will take place at 717 10th St., in the former Waupaca Publishing building.
“Registration will be at 8 a.m. that day. We will run the same times we’ve always been running,” said John Roe, who is the Northeast Wisconsin distribution coordinator for Ruby’s Pantry.
On Aug. 21, they closed on the building. It was financed by the People’s Bank, of Mora, Minn., out of their north branch,” Roe said. Ruby’s Pantry is a community outreach of Home and Away Ministries, a non-profit corporation that began about 10 years ago.
Its mission is to procure and distribute corporate surplus food and goods.
“We paid $185,000 for the building and will have to put another $30,000 to $40,000 into it for loading docks,” Roe said.
For the past three years, Ruby’s Pantry operated out of a building at 138 S. Oborn St.
“We’ve been working out of 10,000 square feet,” he said. “This whole building is around 20,000 square feet.”
The organization rented the Oborn Street space, and Roe said they began looking at the 10th Street building soon after opening a distribution center in Waupaca.
“From the very first time I looked at this building, it’s been my vision to turn the office space up front into a non-profit center,” he said. “As we determine our space needs, we will be working with area non profits and will have meeting rooms open to the public. We envision that within a couple years, all of that office space will be utilized.”
Project Backpack will be making the move to 10th Street with Ruby’s Pantry.
“They’ll be moving over here as soon as we can set them up,” Roe said.
Ruby’s Pantry expanded into Waupaca three years ago.
Roe knows Lyn Sahr, who is the founder of the ministry, and has also been on the board of directors of Home and Away Ministries.
“When we were looking for a place to expand, I said, ‘Why not by us?'” said Roe, who is a native of Waupaca.
Today, eight monthly food distributions are taking place out of the Waupaca site.
In addition to Waupaca, the food distributions for Clintonville, Wautoma, Readfield, Gillett, Marshfield, Medford and Fond du Lac are out of this local center.
“Right now, throughout Ruby’s Pantry food distribution, we’re doing 39 out of Wisconsin and Minnesota. We’re serving over 8,000 families per month. We’re handing out over 700,000 pounds of groceries per month,” Roe said.
He said the new location will be more visible and accessible.
Roe hopes the fact that it will be near the Waupaca Area Food Pantry, which moved earlier this year to Churchill Street, increases awareness of the need to feed the hungry.
Because the food pantry accepts government commodities, it is bound by regulations, Roe said. People must live in the Waupaca School District and meet income guidelines in order to visit the food pantry once a month.
Ruby’s Pantry is also open once a month, but Roe said, “We don’t care if they’ve been over there or not. We don’t ask for income verification. They don’t have to live in the Waupaca School District.”
Since Ruby’s Pantry receives all of its food from corporate donors, Roe tells those who want to donate groceries to take those donations to the Waupaca Area Food Pantry.
“You do not have to be destitute to come to Ruby’s Pantry. We offer a hand up, not a hand out. We ask for a $15 donation, which does two things – it funds the ministry and offers the opportunity for dignity for those going through the lines,” he said. “We tell them to bring two laundry baskets or boxes. We fill the equivalent of that each time.”
While companies donate products, Ruby’s Pantry has to cover the cost of getting those food items to its distribution centers.
“It costs us a lot of money to keep going,” he said. “When I take groceries to Clintonville and families donate $15, of the $15, $3 stays in that particular community.”
Those funds may be used to buy supplies for the sites and advertise the distributions, with the balance used for benevolence in the community, such as for gas cards and those in emergency situations, Roe said.
“We reassure the local food pantries in each community that we’re there to add to what they’re doing. We’re not taking away their groceries,” he said. “All we really care about is feeding hungry people.”
He said that previously, they had not pursued fundraising here, because they first wanted a permanent location.
“We will be seeking grants from local foundations and national foundations for capital items like coolers and freezers,” Roe said.
Ruby’s Pantry also relies on volunteers. Between 40 and 50 volunteers are needed for each food distribution.
They accept those who need to fulfill community service hours.
The goal, Roe said, is to eventually serve between 20 and 25 communities out of the Waupaca distribution center.
“We don’t know how big this is going to get,” he said. “I always tell people – we don’t have a master plan. We just follow the master.”