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Ripon Interfaith Ministries steps up
Ritop interfaith copy
Sharon Butler and Joan Graham are seen checking their late fall produce in the community garden they tend in Ripon. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Helping feed struggling people is a growing concern in Ripon.
Not only does Interfaith Ministries operate a traditional food pantry along with a clothes closet but they also grow food in a two-acre community garden.
Interfaith Ministries, established long ago by a half dozen churches in Ripon, continues to operate out of an old building that once housed a portion of Ripon Christian School on Main Street near Maple Avenue. It houses a food pantry with freezers and refrigerators as well as a separate room with clothing for men women and children.  They get monetary support from churches allowing them to purchase foods for the poor. It is open two days a week, Tuesday and Thursdays, for two hours in the morning and one in the evening.  Supervisor for the pantry, Ginger Eskes, said 88 families were served with food during the month of August alone and some 70 families received clothing.  That is a minimum of four or more individuals per family equating to about 600 served.
Eskes said people receiving help must qualify with information regarding their earnings and must have a Ripon address before they can be assisted by staff members.
Sharon Butler and Joan Graham lead a group of volunteers at a more than two acre community garden on the southern edge of Ripon with them taking the produce to the Senior Citizens Center on Wilma Avenue twice each week for the seniors to add to their home pantries ensuring a proper diet.  They wash and clean the produce before they present it to the seniors.  She said the garden land – also used independently by community members – is owned by Arvin and Teri Boersma who the women credit for making their garden possible with nothing but good to say about them.
Butler is the president of the non-profit garden group, complete with a 501 (c-3),  and Graham is its secretary.  Both are members of the Ripon Rotary Club.  Butler contributes about 40 hours each week and has a group of six to 10 volunteers who work the garden – always looking for more help, she says. Graham does all of the paper and book work for the group. 
The city has provided a non-potable water hookup that services the growing effort in its many wooden plots where a variety of vegetables are grown including potatoes, squash, tomatoes, pickles, carrots, artichokes, strawberries, cucumbers and melons.  Plans are afoot to also plant fruit trees in the garden and also to double the existing planting areas.
Butler said as a child she was always tagging along with her dad as he did the home gardening, saying she loved to watch him make their landscaping beautiful.  Graham said her mother was also a gardener adding that she has always loved to get her hands in the dirt in the process.  Butler said she got involved with the community garden when she saw an ad on Facebook by Rich Bodenschatz. He had started the effort by himself. He didn’t have the time to keep up with the growing intensity of the program, she said.
Butler is also involved in serving the Meals and Wheels program that takes noon meals from the Senior Center’s kitchen to shut-ins throughout the community two days a week. 
The women are hoping that high school teens will see the opportunity of getting their community service hours out of the way by helping the women with the garden during the year.
Ripon Interfaith Ministries is at 816 W. Ripon St. They can be contacted at (209) 599-3682.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email