Stephanie Kuski/River News
Volunteers Kristin Chronister and Jean Lindgren hand out food at the Jan. 21 Ruby’s Pantry distribution.
2/1/2020 7:30:00 AM 'A way to show love through food':
Ruby's Pantry nourishes the community
Stephanie Kuski River News Features Reporter
Members of Calvary Baptist Church, and a small army of volunteers, came together Jan. 21 to provide the community with food supplies via Ruby's Pantry, a monthly pop-up food distribution service.
Cars lined the street up one half block and the parking lot was teeming with activity throughout the evening. But according to Pastor Rod Ankrom, this was just another Tuesday at Ruby's.
"Ruby's Pantry is a way to love people through food," he said.
Founded in 2003, Ruby's Pantry serves over 440,000 people each year and distributes over 16 million pound of food.
In Rhinelander alone, Ankrom said he sees upwards of 300 customers come out each month.
The pop-up pantry is hosted the third Tuesday of every month at the National Guard Armory in Rhinelander. While other pantries have income requirements and limits on how often customers can use their service, Ruby's does not.
"Ruby's Pantry is different in that there is no income qualifications to participate," Ankrom said. "If you eat food, you qualify. So anybody can come to Ruby's."
When visitors come to Ruby's for the first time, they will need to register with a $20 cash donation, Ankrom said.
Customers are asked to bring a few laundry baskets or coolers with them so they can fill these with the food they will receive.
They file into a long line to receive snacks, condiments, water, bread, milk and other day-to-day food items from the pantry volunteers.
More than 185 companies donate food to Ruby's Pantry, which is trucked from their headquarters in Minnesota to Rhinelander.
"Every food product here is donated, either from the manufacturer or realtor," Ankrom said. "They have a lot of food and they don't want to see it wasted or go bad."
Ankrom said that because of this, they never know what products they will have in a given month, but he estimates the food value of any given share ranges between $70 and $120.
Ankrom said he sees guests from all backgrounds, and some come from as far as an hour away.
"We see people young, old, all kinds of different backgrounds, and we see people from all across the area," he said. "I think there is a pretty substantial need for food. We really don't want to see anyone hungry here in our community."
"The mission of Calvary Baptist Church is to joyfully point people to Jesus, and I really believe that Ruby's Pantry is part of fulfilling our mission to our community," Ankrom explained.
Scores of volunteers, some affiliated with Calvary Baptist Church and some not, came out to support Ruby's Pantry.
Tracey Barnes, volunteer coordinator for Ruby's Pantry, said she sees upwards of one hundred volunteers come out to help every month.
"We've got great volunteers and a lot of volunteers," Barnes said. "Everybody treats one another with respect."
Barnes has been associated with Ruby's Pantry since its inception in Rhinelander over seven years ago.
Volunteer Tom Doyle has also been helping at Ruby's Pantry for several years. He said the food provided via the pop-up pantry helps many individuals in the community.
"It's going to help them get through the week," Doyle said. "It might not be everything they need, but it's going to help out."
Rhinelander High School students involved in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and/or DECA, another business-focused club, also lend a helping hand at Ruby's Pantry.
Junior Abbey Henrichs said FBLA/DECA members come to help out at Ruby's Pantry every month to help load vehicles with groceries.
"We're just helping load up vehicles with food and helping to service the community, just getting out and showing our presence in the community," Henrichs said. "I think it just shows that we care about the community and that we value everyone in the community."
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