Check out these 'grumpy old men,' but don't worry, they're not grumpy
They ask that you look for them Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and, more important, bring some goodies.
They are Jerry Carter and Mel Germanson, the self-proclaimed "grumpy old men."
You'll find the two "grumps" near the curb downtown at Veterans Park for their annual post-Thanksgiving food drive.
The two-day collection goes to fill the shelves of the River Falls Food Pantry.
Last year's haul for the Food Pantry hit record highs: 12 pickup truck loads of food, paper and toiletry products weighing about 3,000 pounds and just over $6,100. (Some people offer cash that's used for Food Pantry purchases.)
"You can't miss us standing in front of the Santa House in the park," Germanson said. "Jerry's the one talking all the time, while I do the work."
A large sign at the park announces that Carter and Germanson are collecting for the Food Pantry.
The retired pair insist there's ample room for Main Street drivers to pull over by Veterans Park and drop off a bag or box of foodstuffs.
Even if you're northbound on the opposite side of Main Street, just stop and signal your intentions.
"We'll come running full tilt across the median to make a pick up even if we have to grab our canes first," quipped Carter. "Hey, the food drive is something I look forward to doing every year. I count the days till it's here."
Started in 1992, this will be Carter's 18th charitable drive at Veteran Park following the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Germanson became his sidekick in 1996.
"Jerry was getting old and needing help even back then," Germanson cracked about his grumpy partner.
The grumps will again get a boost from the presence of Karen Kielas, a loan originator for the local WESTconsin Credit Union. While this is her fourth year assisting, the grumpy old men still call Kielas their "intern."
"That's OK by me because they're fun to work with," she said. "I'll always be their intern."
Kielas said her "internship" with Carter and Germanson has it rewards.
"Doing this has reminded me what an outstanding community River Falls is," she said. "People are very giving and willing to share when they can.
"Last year when the economy was bad, I didn't think we would get as much, but it turned out we had an awesome collection. Now this year, with the economy even worse, the need is greater than ever, and we hope our community can still help as much as possible."
Carter also credits the benevolence of visitors to River Falls.
"We've had people driving through from Prescott, Ellsworth and Hudson who see us, then go to a local grocery story and come back to donate things to us that they've bought before going home," he said. "That's truly amazing."
Carter adds that adults often confer the giving spirit to their children.
"When they donate food, some parents stop maybe 10 feet or so from us, then give the bag of goods to their kids and have them drop it off. It's a good lesson in giving, and we try to give kids a candy cane or some treat in return."
Germanson said that standing in with fellow grump Carter has "opened his eyes" to the importance of the local Food Pantry.
"Until I got involved doing this, I didn't realize that we had people in our community who went without or were hungry and needed help," he said. "It's easy to be complacent, but this kind of giving brings out the best in our citizens."
Besides the grumpy old men and their loyal young intern, Kent and Dorothy Frederick are part of the extended team.
When Carter's open-bed pickup is packed with donations, the Fredericks haul the load away in their van and make straight for the Food Pantry.
Germanson said he and Carter have such a reputation that he gets asked, "Are you guys going to be out there again this year?"
"We're expected to be there," Germanson said. "So I'm hoping for the biggest turnout ever, that people become aware of the Food Pantry's need, that they're in a charitable mood and take action. What Jerry and I do is just our small way of trying to make a difference in this town."
Carter said the severe recession gives him extra motivation heading into next week's food drive. "Let's get going," he says.