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Empty pickup truck awaits donors

Recognize these two? This time of year -- right after Thanksgiving -- you should. Jerry Carter and Mel Germanson have teamed up to collect your donations for the River Falls Food Pantry at Veterans Park for more than a decade. Everything gets loaded in the back of Carter's pickup. They're hoping to fill it many times over for their upcoming food drive. Phil Pfuehler photo

Mark your calendars: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 1 and 2. Jerry Carter and Mel Germanson will stand outside all day on those dates, hoping you'll bring much-needed food items or cash to help replenish shelves at the River Falls Food Pantry.

If you're driving on Main Street, keep an eye out for these two. They'll be bundled up by the Santa House in front of Veterans Park next to a sign board asking for contributions.

Carter's pickup, ready to load, will be parked curbside, facing south. Donations will be hauled directly to the food pantry every time the truck's filled.

Two other regulars, Kent and Dorothy Frederick, will load donations onto their van and drive with them to the food pantry.

With foreclosures, inflation, investment losses and people out of work, Germanson urged generosity.

"On behalf of two grumpy old men, I'd like to challenge the community exceed what we collected last year," he said.

Last year's collection -- a substantial one -- was eight pickup loads of donated items and $4,400 in cash. Many donors give cash or checks. Like the food, the money goes right to the volunteer-staffed food pantry.

Most people give nonperishable food. With cold weather and frequent trips to the food pantry, Carter and Germanson can also accept frozen meat and dinners. Any frozen meat has to be either store purchased or processed by a licensed handler.

Paper products and toiletries are also accepted: Napkins, soap, paper towels, toothpaste, shampoo, even diapers.

Germanson said he's always moved by the sight of giving children. He keeps a stash of candy canes for the small givers.

"Last year, especially, we seem to have had more adult women bring their children over, then stop and tell them to go give the things to us on their own," Germanson said. "That was pretty neat. It was teaching them to be charitable."

While Germanson hopes for a record overall collection, he says: "No item of food is too small to give."

Going solo, Carter started the Veterans Park food drive in 1992. Several years later Germanson joined and the partnership goes on. Both men are retired.

How much longer can they carry on?

"As long as the old boss is still operating," says Germanson, pointing at Carter, who adds: "Until someone calls 911 for me."

But Carter is serious about what they do and what makes their food drive a success.

"It's all about the people who leave their homes, jump in their cars, go shopping and then drop off what they can for us," he said. "That's what makes everything click. We just stand around and wait for anyone to show up with the goodies."

Carter said it boils down to this: "There are people, probably more and more of them now, who really need this stuff. That's what matters. We're out there for them."