Look for these characters downtown, you can hardly miss themJerry Carter, 80, and his youthful sidekick Mel Germanson, 79, will again be patrolling Veterans Park this Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 28 and 29, hoping pedestrians and motorists will stop by and donate to the River Falls Community Food Pantry. Carter started his charity drives two decades ago.
Jerry Carter, 80, and his youthful sidekick Mel Germanson, 79, will again be patrolling Veterans Park this Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 28 and 29, hoping pedestrians and motorists will stop by and donate to the River Falls Community Food Pantry. Carter started his charity drives two decades ago.
This year’s annual food drive by Carter and Germanson will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. The two retirees long ago been calling themselves “The Grumpy Old Men.”
Generally, however, these two are anything but grumpy, especially when donations pour it.
“I have truly enjoyed doing this for two days each year,” Carter said. “It looks like we’d be freezing our whatever off out there, but you don’t even think of that because you’re having a good time seeing all the people who stop by.
“You can’t help but be filled with appreciation for how people leave their homes, go shopping and bring stuff out to us. It’s really beautiful.”
Germanson believes The Grumpy Old Men’s food drive has raised visibility about the ongoing value and needs of the River Falls Food Pantry. He adds, humbly, that he and Carter may even be trendsetters.
Germanson said when the two men started their gig in the 1990s, there were few public charitable collections. Now many school, church, business and service groups hold them.
“I think that what we do, standing in the middle of downtown, in the cold, all day, for a cause like the food shelf, made people in our community more aware of how this kind of giving works,” Germanson said.
Carter and Germanson say that with high unemployment and home foreclosures, the Food Pantry’s mission can’t be overstated.
“These are almost depressing circumstances,” Carter said. “Money providers have been laid off in some families and people are hurting. Our community has to step forward.”
Rick Pechacek, past board president for the Food Pantry who still volunteers there, said Carter and Germanson are absolutely right.
“Demand for assistance the last year has greatly increased,” Pechacek said. “It’s just plain and simple a bad economy. Households are struggling to get by. Many can’t put enough food on the table. We have families showing up here with three and four kids to feed.”
Pechacek asked that donors to the Grumpy Old Men on Nov. 28 and 29 at Veterans Park visualize what they will give.
“What would you put on the table at home to serve your family a meal in the evening?” he said. “Imagine that, and then go out and buy those items, and bring them to Jerry and Mel.
When it comes to Food Pantry contributions, Germanson and Carter say they’re beggars and they’re not choosy.
“We’re running an open house,” Carter said. Added Germanson: “Please come down and see us. All visitors are welcome.”