Marty Cramer was a new volunteer when she first joined Waconia United Food Shelf back in 2003. The local food shelf was just getting started, and Cramer, just retired from a career in childhood education, got involved with the fledging food shelf as a member of Faith Lutheran Church.
The food shelf originated with local photographer Lynn Laumann, who collected food donations from people she knew which were distributed to those is need out of her downtown studio. After several months, as the food shelf grew, operation was transferred to community churches.
Cramer became one of its first volunteer coordinators and was named executive director in 2015 when the food shelf achieved independent non-profit agency status. Now, after nearly 20 years, Cramer is retiring from her Waconia Food Shelf duties at the end of September.
Food shelf partners, volunteers and sponsors say she leaves a legacy of compassion, organization and treating food shelf clients with dignity and respect.
Cramer was chosen as one of the first “Service Before Self” recipients by the Waconia- West Carver Rotary in January of 2013.
“That was a very special night for me,” Cramer said.
And Caitlin Huiras, with Carver County Health and Human Services, a Food Shelf partner, says this about Cramer: “Marty’s passion for the community and providing quality food to clients was clear from the first day I met her. Her calm presence allowed her to successfully manage the daily food shelf operations and its many volunteers, and her ability to see the big picture helped her grow the food shelf to be the important community resource it is today.”
Angela Rud, Food Shelf associate director, also praises Cramer’s leadership and compassion, and will join her in retirement from her position this month (see related story).
From its start in the back room of a photo studio, the Waconia Food Shelf has grown into its own building at 11 South Elm Street. It now has a cadre of 140 volunteers, distributes up to 20,000 pounds or more of food each month, and serves on order of 180-200 families monthly.
Cramer herself praises the generosity of the community for the food shelf’s growth and success – from large food givers like Mackenthun’s and Target, to partnerships with Second Harvest Heartland, Carver County Public Health, local schools and organizations, to individual contributions. Even children, making food donations instead of accepting birthday gifts, and sharing donations from their piggy banks and lemonade stands.
“I will miss all of these relationships I have made during the years,” Cramer said. “Of course, that includes the many volunteers – some who have been here as long as I have and I now count as friends. Also, the wonderful board members who have always been an active part of the food shelf and participate in many ways to support it moving forward and creating ways to serve our clients/families in the best way.”
But now it’s time to go, she said. Cramer had back surgery early this year, notes she is not getting any younger at age 76, and would like to spend more time with her husband Ron in retirement and travel more when it is safe again.
Plus, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the food shelf has had to modify its operations to curbside service which took a great deal of effort. Now, as the food shelf looks to safely re-open to clients like the kind of grocery store it had become, she will leave details of the next chapter in the hands of new executive director Angie Cruzen.
“The food shelf has been a big part of my life and the volunteers like family,” Cramer said. “But it’s a time of change and I will always be grateful for this place and the relationships we bult.”
RUD, RINKE RETIRE
Waconia United Food Shelf has been in place for almost 20 years, and now embarks on a period of transition. Executive director Marty Cramer retires this month. So does associate director Angela Rud, long-time volunteer Marit Rinke, and possibly other volunteers who have been involved with the food shelf almost since the beginning.
Rud, who describes herself as Marty Cramer’s “sidekick,” says now is a good time to exit as Cramer departs and the food shelf goes through a period of “retirements, realigning and recruitment.” In addition to retaining a new director (see related story), the food shelf is looking for new board members too and now is trying to find ways to safely reopen after providing mostly curbside food pickup since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Cramer calls Rud the “creative force” for the food shelf, bringing energy and new ideas, including the healthy meal kit and mobile delivery programs that she helped start up in her role.
“Angela’s positive attitude and creativity helped transform the food shelf to be more inclusive and welcoming to all clients,” adds Caitlin Huiras, program specialist with Carver County Health and Human Services, a Food Shelf partner.
Rud called the food shelf the perfect opportunity when she moved to Waconia with her family that then included a baby and a three-year-old.
She had been volunteer director for the Ronald McDonald House, and the food shelf involvement matched her “passion for volunteers.” Rud also continues to serve as volunteer coordinator for Ridgeview Hospital, where she works with 300 volunteers.
“I absolutely adore volunteers,” she said. “Their heart is in the right place and they want to give back. How can you not feel good about that? It’s such a gift to have come here and I have worked with some great people. I will miss it a million, but as I leave here my soul feels good.”
“Carver County Public Health is grateful for the partnership with the Waconia United Food Shelf,” Huiras said. “Because of Marty and Angela’s leadership and commitment, clients with limited food access can go to the food shelf, be treated with dignity and respect, and leave with quality, nutritious food each month.”
CRUZEN TAKES REINS
Angie Cruzen, new executive director of Waconia United Food Shelf, started in August to enable smooth transition as its long-time leaders and volunteers retire this month.
Cruzen has lived in the Waconia area for 13 years working in the banking industry and volunteering in various ways in the community, including more than two years on the food shelf board of directors.
“I have a passion for people in need, whether it’s food, spiritual health, or friendship,” Cruzen said. And she said her responsibilities with the food shelf, working with clients, volunteers and partnering with businesses, are similar in many ways to the work she was doing as a banking branch manager.
Cruzen is married and has two sons that attend Southview Elementary and Waconia Middle School. Her family belongs to Freshwater Church in Waconia. She also serves as the director of operations for the Waconia Basketball Association.
“I’m confident we will keep the quality and compassion instilled in this place,” Cruzen said, “and I’m hopeful that we will continue the legacy that Marty and others have left.”