BLUE EARTH - "When I found out how many people were using the food shelf, I was shocked," said Tim Juba.
Norm Hall was organizing a charity camp out and asked Juba if he wanted to take part.
"I figured I could donate a few hours," Juba said. "I honestly never imagined that 16 years later, we'd still be doing it."
Above:?Blue Earth Girl Scouts are regular donors to the KBEW/Darling International “You Can Make A Difference Camp Out.” The 16th annual event will start 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the parking lot of Juba’s grocery in Blue Earth.
Starting 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Juba, Hall and a few of their friends will rough it in the south parking lot of Juba's Super Valu through noon Saturday, Dec. 1, for the 16th Annual KBEW/Darling International You Can Make A Difference Camp Out. Along the way, they'll accept donations of nonperishable food, toys and money.
The food will go to the Faribault County Food Shelf, the toys to the Western Faribault County Toy Drive and money will help buy whatever isn't donated.
"The food shelf usually gives us a list that we promote heavily on the radio (KBEW 98.1 FM)," Juba said.
The list includes items the food shelf is in particular need of this year, but there also are staples such as toiletries, toothpaste, paper towels and canned foods that are always in demand.
The campers request that new toys, preferably still in packages, be donated.
People don't even have to get out of their vehicles to donate, just drive into the parking lot and pass it out the window.
"But we do encourage people to get out and talk to us," said Juba, adding with a smile, "We get tired of talking to the same guys for three days."
Those guys have gotten to know each other pretty well over the years and have a lot of fun over the days and nights they spend in the trailers or under the canopy.
"We left the vent open in the trailer and we had snow in the trailer one night," Juba recalled.
The different personalities can add to the hijinks.
"One huge Vikings fan, one huge Bears fan, one huge Packers fan, so we've had fun with that," Juba said.
The team blanket of well-known Packers' fan Tom Warmka disappeared during one camp out.
"We held it ransom for a few years," Juba said, "but he got it back."
Juba himself has not escaped unscathed.
"I started on fire one year. I honestly had to stop, drop and roll," he said. "I got too close to the burn barrel."
But in between kidding around, they have taken in a lot of donations.
In 2010, the last year for which they had numbers, they raised $17,000.
"I think we hit $20,000 last year," Juba said.
In 2010, they took in 3,487 items of non-perishable food.
Juba said there are some regulars they see every year, such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, local churches and businesses. United Hospital District already has donated $2,500.
"Darling's participation is huge," Juba said.
"Norm has business people come, the sheriff comes, random people who come and help out," Juba said. "Some help set up, some help tear down."
All these years later, Juba has never forgotten the reason they spend three days and two nights in the early winter Minnesota elements.
"The need is out there," he said. "You'd probably be surprised how many people use the food shelf and toy drive every year."