WORTHINGTON - At 10 a.m. on Friday mornings, Rick Dalrymple drives to Walmart to load food into his pickup truck.
Major grocery stores in town donate food to the Manna Food Pantry as part of the Feed America program. The amount of food varies based on the supply, and this time, there was plenty of supply.
“We got 212 pounds of food,” Dalrymple said. “The pickup was almost full - we barely got it in today.”
Dalrymple, a central Kansas native, has lived in Worthington for 28 years. He spent 23 of them teaching at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, and when he was ready to retire, a colleague recommended he spend time helping out at the pantry.
He wasn’t sure if he would enjoy it, but four years later, Dalrymple is still there, guiding families through the pantry’s chamber full of food and playing with little kids when he has downtime.
“I like working with people - always have, and then you get kind of hooked on it,” Dalrymple said. “You start to recognize people, and they recognize you around town, and you develop some relationships.”
On this particular Friday, Dalrymple wasn’t alone in unloading the food. He was assisted by Camilo Gonzalez, a newcomer to Worthington and one of the pantry’s newer volunteers.
Gonzalez moved to Worthington from Texas a little more than two months ago to be close to his two sons and daughters. His daughter, Diana, is administrative assistant at Westminster Presbyterian, the food pantry’s host church.
“I needed something to do, instead of laying down in the house all the time,” Gonzalez said. “I just liked to be around people and help people out, especially people who don’t know English.”
Gonzalez plays a vital role at the pantry. In addition to helping unload food and helping visitors receive their food, he serves as the primary interpreter for Spanish speakers. Before Gonzalez arrived, the pantry would have to rely on calling volunteer interpreters by phone.
At 11 a.m. Friday, the pantry was bustling. Small children created an obstacle course of sorts while their parents waited patiently to get food.
Despite the potential for chaos, the process remained organized and calm. Volunteers such as Pat Bretzman help clients decide what they want from various aisles of bread, meat, vegetables, fruit and more, making sure they get the right amount of everything.
A former Windom resident, Bretzman moved to Worthington five years ago. Shortly after, she signed up to volunteer at the pantry.
“I’ve always worked with people - I started babysitting my younger brothers when I was 10 and it just escalated from there,” Bretzman said.
Bretzman always wanted to be a social worker. Instead, she became a nursing assistant at the nursing home in Windom. Now that she’s retired, Bretzman was happy to continue helping others by volunteering.
“I love to help other people.” Bretzman said. “I always say, I work for God, and there’s a lot of people in need.”
Manna Food Pantry Coordinator Linda Sanchez said there is a “dire need” for more volunteers to help unload semi-trucks carrying food from Second Harvest, the pantry’s main supplier. The trucks come on the first and third Thursday of every month.
Sanchez also said the pantry needs more volunteers to help pick up donated food from stores, and could always use more people to help clients get their food.
Those interested in volunteering can contact the pantry at 329-1951 or contact A.C.E. of Southwest Minnesota and Nobles County at 295-5262. A.C.E. helps organize volunteers at approximately 40 sites throughout Nobles County.