NACE gets cool upgrades thanks to Connexus

The North Anoka County Emergency (NACE) Food Shelf in East Bethel has more space to store fresh produce, meats and other frozen foods thanks to Connexus Energy.

Brittany Collver (NACE outreach director) and Annabelle Budde (NACE director) in the walk-in cooler. Photo by Eric Hagen
Brittany Collver (NACE outreach director) and Annabelle Budde (NACE director) in the walk-in cooler. Photo by Eric Hagen

The Ramsey-based electric cooperative recently paid approximately $37,000 to purchase a custom walk-in freezer and walk-in cooler and a display cooler for the food shelf.

“It’s a gift to our community and the people that are in need,” said Connie Jeffers, chairperson of the NACE Board of Directors. “We’re thrilled with their donation.”

Don Haller, vice president of member and community relations for Connexus Energy, said, “It’s a long-term sustainable investment in the community. These units will last 20-plus years.”

The circle of giving continued when NACE donated its chest freezer to the Manna Market at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Francis and its two upright refrigerator/freezer units to the Annandale Food Shelf, according to NACE Director Annabelle Budde.

“To pay it forward is a really wonderful feeling,” Budde said.

With more cooler and freezer storage space, NACE is ready to accept more donations.

According to Linda Wieser, NACE facilities assistant, a lot of people with gardens already brought in produce and a lot of corn, cucumbers and potatoes, for example, have been received.

A community garden recently started near Village Bank in East Bethel and produce from that garden has been donated to the food shelf. The Second Harvest Heartland is starting to distribute more produce. The Target store in Blaine off Highway 65 has donated produce every week, Budde said.

Local donors have also brought in chicken and NACE staff buys a lot of turkeys at discounted prices during the holiday season, so that is where the extra freezer space will help, she said.

One of the things people ask for the most when they first come into NACE is milk, according to Wieser.

Jeffers said it has been NACE’s goal to be able to provide alternative choices to its clients.

According to Budde, St. Cloud Refrigeration custom built the walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer so it could fit perfectly into the space NACE has at its East Bethel location. The freezer has an insulated floor to keep the frigid temperatures in. The cooler does not need an insulated floor.

The display cooler has Budde really excited because this is what clients will see when they come in, she said.

According to Samantha Neral, communications and community relations director for Connexus, the money comes from unclaimed cash back credits. Customers serviced by Connexus Energy are also members of the Connexus electric cooperative. Profits earned are returned to members through a credit on their November bill based on the amount of electricity they use. If someone moves away, they continue to get the cash back credits.

If Connexus Energy cannot locate the person, it must hold onto the money for seven years and continue to attempt locating that person. If they cannot be found after seven years, Connexus can donate the unclaimed money to community causes.

Connexus has used some of this money to pay for college scholarships, for example, according to Neral.

Haller said Connexus donated a walk-in freezer and walk-in cooler to the Anoka County Brotherhood Council (ACBC) Food Shelf in Anoka, so NACE was the second food shelf to receive a donation like this from Connexus.

He said Connexus plan to make a donation to the Cambridge Food Shelf next.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]