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Ruth Free Store opens on Belknap Street

Store volunteer Adam Andren: “The one thing you won’t find here is a cash register."

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Volunteers Adam Andren, left, and his son Wyatt discuss the space available at the Ruth Free Store, 1423 Belknap St., on Jan. 5, 2022. It was the first day the free store was open to the public. (Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram)

In the midst of a winter storm, the Ruth Free Store opened in the former Annie’s Attic space, 1423 Belknap St., on Wednesday, Jan. 5.

Outside hung a rack of coats; inside tables, bins and racks held clothing, boots, hats, mittens, blankets, hygiene products, household items and more. Tucked under one rack were sleeping mats made out of used plastic bags, courtesy of the Superior Bag Ladies group.

Wyatt Andren, 15, of Lake Nebagamon, spent his snow day folding and hanging clothes in the store. With classes canceled in the Maple School District, the Northwestern High School student would have probably spent the day hanging out at home, playing games on his phone. Instead, he was at the store when a woman stopped by to pick out a coat for her granddaughter.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Andren said.

His father, Adam, also spent the day volunteering at the store. He said the doors are open to anyone who is struggling, not just people who are homeless.

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“The one thing you won’t find here is a cash register,” Adam Andren said.
The items at the store were donated to the Ruth House, an offshoot of Walking Victorious Ministries at 632 Grand Ave. Ruth House provides a sober drop-in center by day and overnight warming site, as well as daily community meals. Donations have been coming in faster than the ministry can hand them out.

“Our cup overflows,” said ministry Pastor Jack Swonger, and the free store offers a path to funnel those items to the people who need them.

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The Ruth Free Store opened Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, at 1423 Belknap St. The store will be open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. The coat rack will remain outside even when the store is closed. Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“It’s in the perfect spot. I mean, it’s right on the main throughway through Superior, and people walk up and down that avenue. They’re coming out of jail, they’re who knows what,” said Chrissy Foster, ministry coordinator.

“Busline is right there. Logistically, it fit perfect,” Swonger said.

Rent for the Ruth Free Store space is being provided by a group of people who support the ministry, he said.

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The new free store fills a gap in the community. Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency shut down its free store when the pandemic began in March 2020. The space has since been retooled for the agency’s food pantry, according to executive director Millie Rounsville.

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Wyatt Andren, 15, of Lake Nebagamon, folds donated clothing in the back room of the Ruth Free Store at 1423 Belknap St., on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have been delivering items, including new and next-to-new clothing items in all sizes, and a variety of household items, food and products to people since the beginning of the pandemic. People can leave a message at 715-398-4039 to access the help. However, the group does not have a store where people can “shop” for the items.

The Ruth Free Store is currently open Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The outdoor coat rack will remain up even when the store is closed. If more people step up to volunteer, the store could expand those hours.

“It’s just a great feeling being there for people,” Adam Andren said.

Contact Swonger, 218-221-4636 or Foster, 218-408-3766 ,or stop by Ruth House at 632 Grand Ave. to volunteer.

Donations of clean items in good repair are also accepted during store hours. In addition to clothing of all sizes, small appliances, boots, shoes, blankets, dishes and household goods, a limited number of larger donations can be accepted. Donors with larger items should call the Ruth House prior to bringing them to the store.

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Ruth House serves an average of 40-50 evening meals each day, and between 20-25 people have been utilizing the warming center nightly, according to Foster. Food donations, particularly coffee, are welcomed.

Visit the Walking Victorious Ministries website or Ruth House-Twin Ports Facebook page for more information.

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