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Ruth Free Store slated to move, will add diner

The store will move one door down to 1419 Belknap St.

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Adam Andren, right, opens the door of the Ruth Free Store for June Arneson Monday, March 14, 2022. Andren and Arneson are regular volunteers at the store, a ministry of Walking Victorious Ministries. The store will be moving into the building next door, 1419 Belknap St., by April 2.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The Ruth Free Store will move into a new building, one door down, by April 2.

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

With nearly twice the footprint of the current store, the space at 1419 Belknap St. will also house the Ruth Diner. Free lunch and dinner will be served daily in the sectioned-off diner area.

The same landlord owns both buildings and allowed the free store, an offshoot of Walking Victorious Ministries, to change leases to the 1419 Belknap site, according to Pastor Jack Swonger of Walking Victorious Ministries.

Meals will be prepared in the Ruth House’s serve-safe kitchen and brought to the space. Swonger likened it to a church social type of meal service, with the added bonus of being able to shop during the meal.

Ruth House has been providing free daily dinners at 632 Grand Ave. since the pandemic began. Recent meals have included stuffed salmon with herb rice, pizza with salad and dessert, and biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs and fruit.

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“We operate on what we’re given. We rarely have to purchase anything at this point," said Chrissy Foster, Ruth House manager and Walking Victorious program coordinator.

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Chrissy Foster, program manager for Walking Victorious Ministries, holds a cutting board she found at the Ruth Free Store Monday, March 14, 2022. The cutting board will come in handy at Ruth House for meal preparation, she said.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

The ministry serves up to 50 meals a night. Foster said she expects that number to grow in the new Ruth Diner space because it is right on a bus line. Lunch will be served every day except Sunday.

The Ruth Free Store opened Jan. 5 at 1423 Belknap St. and quickly grew.

“Our shelves were full within three days,” Swonger said.

Donations continue to flow in and out of the ministry. Whole congregations have stepped up to volunteer for a day. Many donate time regularly to the store.

“I like to see the city come in, the people who live (here) and they need things and we have them and there’s no judgment … they take what they need. I like to see that,” said regular volunteer Jane Matejka, who retired from the Superior School District in June 2021.

Needed items include tables and shelving units as well as household goods, hygiene items and cosmetics. Swonger said even half-empty bottles of shampoo or open packs of diapers are accepted.

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Shoppers and volunteers move through the Ruth Free Store,1423 Belknap St., on Monday, March 14, 2022. The shop, which is open six days a week, will move one door down to 1419 Belknap St. on April 2. The new space will provide more room for larger items like furniture and allow the ministry to open a Ruth Diner section where free meals will be served.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

When the free store moves to the new space, the receiving area for the donations will be behind the building.

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The Ruth House on Grand Avenue also serves as a sober drop-in center by day and overnight warming center. Recently, it has been serving about seven people per night.

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Chrissy Foster, left, and Pastor Jack Swonger with Walking Victorious Ministries stand in the space that is being renovated for the Ruth Free Store at 1419 Belknap St. on Monday, March 14, 2022. The shop is expected to move into the new space by April 2.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“This is a nondenominational, interdenominational ministry. We’re here to support the ministries that are already here,” Swonger said. “We’re not here to replace a ministry. We’re here to help fill a need where there’s void spots.”

Their goal, he said, is to bring the community closer together.

“And at the same time, people are being blessed with meals, people are being blessed with clothing, some appliances. But most of all they’re greeted with a smile and most of all they leave with a smile. That’s the reward in itself,” Swonger said. “It’s more of a blessing to give than receive.”

Visit the Ruth House-Twin Ports and Ruth Free Store Facebook pages; contact Swonger at 218-221-4636 or Foster at 218-408-3766; or stop by Ruth House at 632 Grand Ave. for more information or to volunteer.

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The Ruth Free Store is currently housed at 1423 Belknap St., the former Annie's Attic space, left. It will be moving to 1419 Belknap Street, pictured at right.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Jane Matejka sorts through donations in the back room of the Ruth Free Store in Superior, Wis., on Monday, March 14, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Pastor Jack Swonger with Walking Victorious Ministries, left, and volunteer Adam Andren size up the front area of 1419 Belknap St., where painting is underway on Monday, March 14, 2022. The building is being remodeled to become the new home of Ruth Free Store in Superior, Wis.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Pastor Jack Swonger with Walking Victorious Ministries points out where the sign for Ruth Free Store will be on Monday, March 14, 2022, in the building at 1419 Belknap St. in Superior, Wis.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
“Some are here for a season, a week or two. Some over a year.”

Related Topics: NONPROFITSFAITHSUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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