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Guest Commentary: Ruby’s Pantry Austin commemorates first year

It’s been one year since the first Ruby’s Pop-Up Pantry in Austin and quite a year it’s been. What began as barely a good idea in March 2019 has ended up a service to area residents providing approximately 3,500 bundles of food in our first year.

The idea of bringing a Ruby’s Pantry to Austin came up during a Bible study at Grace Lutheran Church and became a reality in September of 2019. The first six distributions were held at Grace Lutheran Church, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the March 2020 distribution. The local Ruby’s Pantry coordinators met several times in March to find a way to continue with the restrictions the virus caused organizations to follow for indoor/outdoor events. The Mower County Fair Board stepped up and offered the fairgrounds as a location for a drive-thru distribution and, with a few minor adjustments, the monthly pantry has been held near the Plager Building on the fairgrounds since May. The hope is to continue the drive-thru at the fairgrounds September and October. Planning is underway to decide how to proceed with the distributions after October and through the winter.

These monthly events could not be held without the generous help of volunteers and business partners. For the distribution to operate smoothly, 80 to 100 volunteers pitch in each month. Summer was a challenge to get enough volunteers, but the hope is for more volunteers to return for each distribution now that summer activities are winding down. Ruby’s can always use more people to help.

The efforts have also been aided by donations from International Paper and Thompson Sanitation. Traffic control was an issue for our first drive-thru pantry at the fairgrounds in April, but the Mower County Emergency Management Office came up with a plan for traffic flow and offered to supply help to direct the guests on the fairgrounds site, which has made the entire operation safer and more efficient. Ruby’s Austin thanks all those who help make these distributions possible, including KAUS AM/FM and The Austin Daily Herald for their continued support over this past year. Appreciation also goes out to KAAL, KIMT and KTTC television for coverage of our efforts.

The second year for Ruby’s Pantry Austin begins on Sept. 17 with our next drive-thru pantry at the Mower County Fairgrounds. The distribution begins at 5 p.m. and continues until 6:30 p.m. A $20 cash donation gets a guest a large bundle of donated items. If anyone wishes to volunteer or has questions about Ruby’s Pantry Austin, they may call Grace Lutheran Church at 433-3445. For more information, check out our Rubys Pantry Austin Facebook page.

Bob Rosel

Ruby’s Pantry Austin

Media Coordinator