As a cooperative, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services (PPCS) is challenged to show concern for community. As a congregation, Bethel Covenant Church was challenged by its former pastor to find a project that demonstrated their commitment to the community. The congregants accepted the challenge and took on the role of being a Pop-up Pantry for Ruby’s Pantry in the Ellsworth area.
Established in 2003, Ruby’s Pantry has over 91 Pop-up Pantry locations across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota. Annually, they serve over 510,000 people. Each Pop-up Pantry is staffed entirely by volunteers. There is no financial requirement to participate. Participants pay $25 per share and each share’s value is over $200 in various food and household products. The food is surplus that is given to the foundation rather than being wasted and then distributed to the Pop-up Pantries.
Becky Bechel, site coordinator for Bethel Covenant Church, said they began the program in April 2022. They generally need about 60 volunteers for the process to run smoothly. They welcome anyone to volunteer, but volunteers must sign up and have a background check completed. The Bethel Pop-up Pantry is held the first Saturday of each month from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. The distributions have been as an outdoor drive-through at Bethel Covenant Church on County Road K.
“We have some people who get in line while we’re still setting up,” said Steve Johnson, Bethel volunteer. “But each month we keep improving the process. Originally, it took about eight minutes to get them through the line, and now we have it down to two minutes.”
With cold weather quickly approaching, Bechel and the other core team volunteers began searching for another location to do the distribution that would provide some shelter for the volunteers. PPCS had previously hosted drive-through COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in its warehouse and back shop. It seemed like hosting the Pop-up Pantry might also be a good fit.
“Commitment to community is one of our core cooperative principles,” said Charity Lubich, PPCS vice president of member relations and human resources. “When the volunteers from Bethel approached us, it seemed like ‘a match made in heaven’. Our back garage area works very well for these types of drive-through programs, and we’re excited to help make the distribution of food to local families easier during inclement months.”
The Bethel Covenant Church Pop-up Pantries will be held at the PPCS office on November 5, December 3, January 7, and February 4. Participants are asked to enter the PPCS parking lot on the Highway 63 side and follow directional signs/cones through the parking lot. Additional information can be found at the group’s Facebook page, Ruby’s Pantry – Ellsworth, WI at Bethel Covenant Church, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 715-792-2397.