BLUE EARTH - The 16th Annual KBEW/Darling International "You Can Make A Difference Campout" set a new record for donations, according to organizer Norm Hall.
A total of 2,114 items were donated for the Faribault County Food Shelf, located in the elementary/middle school building in Blue Earth. The food shelf is open by appointment.
"Add to that the 1,961 food items donated by the Blue Earth Elementary School students and that totals 4,075 items," Hall said. "The cash and check donations this year topped last year and the all-time record of $18,000. The total was just under $19,200.
"Everyone associated with the 16th Annual KBEW/Darling International You Can Make A Difference Campout would like to thank everyone who donated," Hall said. "Because of your generosity, we have made a difference here in Faribault County, at a special time of year."
Peggy Erickson, chairman of the food shelf board, is grateful for the assistance.
"It's our biggest fundraiser for the year," she said. "We feel what we do is pretty basic to life."
The money raised by the campout will be split between the food shelf and Western Faribault County Toy Drive, said Erickson. The food shelf receives an average between $8,000 and $10,000 a year.
All of the food donated will last about three or four months, Erickson said.
"It's all local. None of the money goes anywhere else," she noted. "People feel it gets turned around right in our community."
The food shelf in Blue Earth is available to anyone in Faribault County.
"We are an emergency food shelf, not a sustaining food shelf," she said. "We try to give out a two-week supply of food. People are eligible for that four times a year.
"In the last three or four years, we've seen a steady increase (of people needing help)," she said.
There are many reasons why people need to use a food shelf, including fire, raising grandchildren, or if an illness makes them unable to work for a while. Some people are just getting by when a spouse loses their job; even getting hours cut can hurt a family, Erickson said.
"We don't ask," she said, but "people share their story."
In addition to year-round help, the Faribault County Food Shelf supplies a holiday food box for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter to families not able to afford a nice meal, Erickson said. Families in need may be referred by others; it's a bit late for Christmas referrals due to the time needed to prepare the boxes, but Easter is just around the corner, she said.
As much as the campout and other fundraisers help, Erickson said there are some items that need to be replenished on a regular basis, including "canned tuna, canned chicken, and canned fruit.
"Things that are expensive are what we run out of most quickly," she said.
So far, the food shelf has been able to rely on donations.
"People are generous," Erickson said. "It would bring tears to your eyes."
One thing on Erickson's Christmas list is a laptop computer with an access program on it so the food shelf could go digital with its record keeping. It wouldn't have to be new, she said; if someone is upgrading and wanted to donate their old computer, "We'd gladly accept it."
For those who need assistance, call (507) 526-7222 or contact a pastor, social worker or school social worker, which are all part of the referral system. Donors can also contact a board member.