Ruby’s Pantry worker in FL receives honor

Kathy Upchurch with her Ruby’s Pantry award at Forest Hills United Methodist Church, where she is an active volunteer. (Photo by Cliff Buchan)
Kathy Upchurch with her Ruby’s Pantry award at Forest Hills United Methodist Church, where she is an active volunteer. (Photo by Cliff Buchan)


Kathy Upchurch helps run program at Forest Hills United Methodist


Cliff Buchan
Staff Writer

On the third Saturday of the month, more than 200 families from throughout the area show up in Forest Lake to collect precious quantities of food. It’s all part of the mission of Ruby’s Pantry and its local distribution site, Forest Hills United Methodist Church.

The families in need pay a $15 fee to take home food stuffs valued at more than $90. For many, it’s a way to make ends meet during times that are tough. And they are thankful.

Behind the scenes, the church volunteer who organizes the program, Kathy Upchurch, watches with satisfaction as families in need receive welcome food. She needs little in the way of thank yous, she said.

But last weekend in Siren, Wis., Upchurch was one of several Ruby’s Pantry volunteers to receive thank-you plaques during the organization’s annual meeting.

Volunteerism has been Upchurch’s way of life since she left upstate New York 12 years ago and moved to Forest Lake to be closer to her son and family. Now 75, Upchurch continues to maintain a hectic pace even though she uses a walker with wheels. A broken left leg two years ago left her with a rod and the need for a walker to help with balance.

In the Ruby’s Pantry program, Upchurch takes care of all the paperwork tied to the monthly program. She works with 30 to 40 volunteers at the church and two key program helpers, Ann Klinner and Ken Grinnell. Volunteers assist with unloading the Ruby’s Pantry delivery trucks and helping families select the meat, bread, produce, and boxed and canned food items that arrive here.

“I like working with and helping people,” Upchurch said, explaining why she is involved. She got involved with the church after moving here and quickly volunteered for the food program and a separate car repair program founded by Maxine and the late Walter Schwanke. When Maxine moved from Forest Lake six years ago, she turned over the program’s lead to Upchurch.

Ruby’s Pantry is just one facet of church life where she is involved. She volunteers in the church office two days a week and also stays busy with Sarah Circle wherever needed.

Upchurch becomes the first member of Forest Hills to be recognized by Ruby’s Pantry.

Area residents willing to learn more about Ruby’s Pantry or the car repair program may call the church at 651-464-5249 for more information.

The church doors open at 7 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month. Forest Hills United Methodist Church is located at 1790 SE 11th St., just north of TH-97.

Ruby’s Pantry is a not-for-profit, Minnesota-based organization dedicated to procuring and distributing corporate surplus food and goods to help fight poverty, hunger and disease in rural communities for those with low resources and in crisis through churches, food shelves and other local civic organizations.