The community has shown tremendous support for the Marketplace Steele County Food Shelf, according to Community Pathways co-director Nancy Ness. She welcomed a donation of 60 gift cards from Cash Wise Foods of Owatonna. It's the second such donation from Cash Wise. Each card is worth $25 and will be distributed to families in need in Steele County.

"It's amazing...We're so appreciative. It'll just do wonders for our families. It's just great. The support from the community, Cash Wise, it's just been tremendous," proclaimed Ness.

She said distribution is based on need, "to help get them by...This allows them to get things as they can consume them which is really a wonderful gift."

Store Director Keith Ramm said, "Cash Wise is all about the food shelf and trying to make sure we're taking care of the local people...This is the second batch that we are doing. So we're going to continue to raise money...The company is doing their part to raise money for the food banks. So the company as a whole is donating to all the food banks in all their areas. We're also taking donations at the registers."

Ness has seen an increase in usage of the Marketplace, "It's been interesting. We've expected more. We have registered quite a few new families. But I think quite a few families that have been enrolled in the program for awhile, are hunkering in a little bit more...What has really increased is our delivery program...and that's because we have so many people who are very vulnerable...We deliver to their doorstep."

Marketplace offers no-contact curbside service at this time. No appointment is necessary. Ness said, "They just pull up outside. We'll come right out to them." Current hours for the Marketplace are Monday and Wednesday 9 am to 4:30 pm, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 am to 3:30 pm. Unique Finds, formerly the Clothesline, is closed presently.

The Owatonna Foundation made a humanitarian donation to Marketplace and SEMCAC's Meals-on-Wheels program in March.

Ness added that the recent merger of the food shelf and clothesline into Community Pathways came as good timing, "Thank goodness we did. If we hadn't done that, I don't know if the staff of the food shelf side could have done it alone...We're so grateful that we are one organization that can support each others programs."