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Grumpy Old Men gear up for big food drive, promote long-suffering intern

Left to right, Mel Germanson, Karen Kielas and Jerry Carter return to Veterans Park Monday, Nov. 26 and Tuesday, Nov. 27 to accept donations for the River Falls Community Food Pantry. <i>Phil Pfuehler photo</i>

After a six-year apprenticeship, Karen Kielas has joined the self-dubbed Grumpy Old Man for their annual campaign to replenish the local food shelf 8:30 a.m. till just before dark at 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 26 and 27, near the Main Street curb at Veterans Park.

Eighty-something local retirees Jerry Carter and Mel Germanson took the Grumpy Old Men label from the 1990s movie with the same name.

That name belies their charitable intentions.

Carter started it all at Veterans Park with a blanket/coat/glove/mitten drive for the needy two decades ago.

In a few years that morphed into a collection to benefit the River Falls Food Pantry. Soon, Carter added Germanson as his sidekick.

As food and financial contributions for the food pantry grew, Grumpy Old Men Carter and Germanson were, in fact, growing older.

So they turned to a younger volunteer, Kielas, a mortgage loan processor at WESTconsin Credit Union.

Since they have Grumpy Old Men traits, Carter and Germanson claimed that Kielas needed years of training as a volunteer food collector. Therefore, she was designated as their long-term intern.

That internship has apparently ended for 2012. Germanson made the announcement, Carter grudgingly agreed.

Kielas, seemingly confident in her role as a full-fledged partner, said it's been a journey: "People have asked me how I tolerate them."

But she quickly added: "I really look forward to working with these guys. It's great, we have a lot of fun, and I'm always amazed by the turnout from our community -- even when the economy is bad.

"Every year our collection numbers are up. It makes me feel good to live and work here."

Carter concurs: "I can't believe how generous the people of River Falls and the surrounding areas, including Hudson and Ellsworth, are."

Germanson noted that more donations these days come from college- and high-school-age students.

"They drop by after classes with a sack of goods or a few cans," he said. "There's more awareness from younger people about what we're doing."

Carter said people have gotten used to seeing the post-Thanksgiving food drive at Veterans Park.

"You walk down the street this time of year and get asked: 'Are you guys going to do that collection again?'

"So people in the community are ready for us. They expect us to be there so they can come by and give something. That's why we like doing this."

For the complete annual food-drive story, please see the Nov. 28 print edition of the River Falls Journal.