Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The generous gift of a St. Paul woman to a rural Minnesota food shelf January 6, 2012

TODAY I’M TREATING YOU to a gem of a story published yesterday in a weekly community newspaper, The Gaylord Hub.

It’s an inspiring and uplifting story of a St. Paul woman who purposely sought out a rural food shelf as the recipient of a Christmas gift. And a mighty generous one from someone with apparently no connection to Gaylord, a southern Minnesota Sibley County seat town of around 2,300.

Hub officer manager and bookkeeper Elizabeth Reishus shares the tale of generosity in her January 5 “The Word From High Avenue” column as shared with her by Yvonne O’Brien of Sibley County Food Share, Inc.

Writes Reishus:

A woman from St. Paul had called Second Harvest food bank to ask for a list of rural food shelves. Second Harvest was not able to give her that information, but did give her O’Brien’s phone number.

The woman then called O’Brien and asked questions about the food shelf. What percent of families served were minorities? Is the need higher in the summer? What kinds of resources does your food shelf have to rely on for donations?

O’Brien explained that about 40 percent of clients at the food shelf are people of a minority. The need for help increases in the summer when seasonal workers arrive to work at area farms and other agriculture-related jobs. She also explained that unlike bigger towns and cities, we do not have the big chain stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Cub or Cash Wise that donate food. The Sibley County Food Shelf is maintained through the generosity of area people and some grant money, O’Brien explained.

The St. Paul woman said she would like to send a donation to the food shelf. O’Brien gave the woman the mailing address for donations and expected to receive a check for about $50. She was pleasantly surprised to find that the donation check was for 10 times that amount. The generous mystery woman gave $500 to the Sibley County Food Shelf.

How’s that for Minnesota Nice and for thinking beyond the metro?

Consider the effort this mystery woman took to find just the right place for her $500 donation. What motivated her to seek out a rural food shelf, to ask those specific questions about minorities, to give that much money to a single food shelf?

I’d never really thought, prior to reading Reishus’ column, how small-town food banks typically don’t receive food donations from chain stores, relying instead primarily on the generosity of locals.

So thank you to that woman from St. Paul for thinking beyond the metro area of the need in rural Minnesota and for blessing Sibley County Food Share with $500.

She offers us much food for thought.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Sibley County Food Share, click here.

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