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Another food drive: ‘Grumpy Old Men’ out again to bring joy to River Falls

Grumpy Old Men Mel Germanson, left, and Jerry Carter, right, backed up by their partner Karen Kielas, stand inside the River Falls Community Food Pantry, 222 N. Main St. Suite C, as the three prepare for their annual food drive, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. (River Falls Journal photo by Bob Burrows)

The Monday and Tuesday after Thanksgiving Day can only mean one thing in downtown River Falls – Jerry Carter and Mel Germanson, the self-proclaimed Grumpy Old Men, will collect donations to benefit the River Falls Community Food Pantry.

This year’s no exception. Look for Carter and Germanson, along with longtime sidekick Karen Kielas and newer sidekick Rick Bowen, to be stationed curbside at Veterans Park from roughly 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Nov. 20 and Dec. 1.

They stand, or sit, in the cold for two straight days for one reason: To take anything people will give for the local food shelf -- including money.

Carter’s Chevy S-10 pickup truck will be parked by the curb. Donations are brought, loaded up and hauled back and forth to the food shelf by Grumpy Old Men driver Monte Hanson.

No matter the weather – gusty, rainy, snowy or just plain cold – the Grumpy Old men hope the food shelf giving won’t ever let up.

The 84-year-old Carter said that in each of the last two years, his group has collected more than $10,000 and between seven and eight truckloads of food items.

“Our job is easy. We just stand around out there and wait for whatever comes,” he said. “People who give have to make the effort to go somewhere to buy something and bring it to us.

“We’ve been so grateful over the years to the people of River Falls and from those out of town who have donated so faithfully and generously to our local food pantry.”

Germanson, 83, a retired UW-River Falls registrar, will do his 19th two-day food drive with Carter.

Carter started on his own a few years before Germanson by collecting blankets and clothes for the needy and having local churches distribute them.

Then Carter switched to a food drive, asked Germanson to join, and the Grumpy Old Men tandem was formed.

“We get along and have bonded,” Germanson said. “But our food drive isn’t about Jerry or myself. There are many, many charitable collections this time of year that contribute to making for a real good Christmas for everyone.

“Jerry and I are just trying to give and be part of what seems like a total community involvement.”

Food Pantry Manager Candice Rapley said the Grumpy Old Men’s annual two-drive is appreciated.

“Especially the money they bring,” she said. “That’s been increasing and it helps to keep our doors open.

“Any money donated to us expands, by a power of at least five, our buying power when we make purchases from Second Harvest (St. Paul food bank)…a box of cereal that you might pay $3 for in the store we can get for 50 cents or less.”

Rapley listed key items the Food Pantry always needs and that could also be donated during the upcoming food drive at Veterans Park: Canned tuna and chicken (good protein sources); canned fruit and vegetables; any type of pasta and pasta sauce (to help complete a meal); staples like sugar, flour, spices, salt, pepper, and vegetable oil.

Rapley said Food Pantry recipients often ask for coffee, but that’s something rarely donated.

“It would be nice for us to offer coffee with the other groceries ,” she said.

Parents for their kids often are in need of healthy snacks -- like crackers or nutritional bars, and cake mixes that come in handy for birthday parties.

Rapley said the Food Pantry tries to carry diapers but rarely gets donations of small-size diapers for infants.

She said other in-demand commodities at the Food Pantry are toilet paper, paper towels, tissue paper, toothpaste and toothbrushes.

For the complete story, see the Nov. 26 print issue of the River Falls Journal.