Catholic Charities Impacts Local Communities Through Food Shelf and Toys for Tots

January 25, 2024

Through Stearns Electric’s Operation Round Up® program, member-consumers of the Cooperative give back to our area communities by rounding up their monthly electric bill to the nearest dollar. The rounded-up funds (between 1¢ and 99¢) are placed in a trust fund and administered by at trust board made up of one member of each of the Cooperative’s nine districts.

Operation Round Up® (ORU) funds are given to local civic organizations and worthy causes through an application and selection process. In 2023, 181 organizations received a combined total of $166,273. Your small change makes a BIG difference.

Every November, the trust board awards funds to the 19 food shelves and 10 gift-giving organizations throughout Central Minnesota, including the programs of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud. 

“Catholic Charities Emergency Services Food Shelf consists of three programs: our main distribution site, a mobile food shelf and the Hunger Doesn’t Wait food delivery program,” said Eric Vollen, Catholic Charities Emergency Services program manager. “Together, our programs help provide food for families and individuals experiencing food insecurity.” 

Catholic Charities serves around 5,000 individuals and 1,700 households every month. In 2023, the food shelf distributed over 1.7 million pounds of food.

“A certified SuperShelf since 2019, we prioritize healthy and nutritious food first,” Vollen explained. “We work with SuperShelf to provide access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods for those in need while providing a welcoming and dignifying experience.”

Area retailers are also partners of Catholic Charities Food Shelf because of its Food Rescue program, an increasingly important food stream that allows food shelves to stock more items that meet their shoppers’ needs.

“We partner with local grocers and large box stores throughout the area for our Food Rescue program. Through this program, our drivers collect food from around seven businesses every weekday that is past the standard shelf-life, but is still healthy and safe to consume,” Vollen explained. “Our food shelf can provide perfectly good food to those in need instead of it going to waste. It’s truly a win-win for all of us.” 

Over 100,000 pounds of food is rescued through this program every month.

Catholic Charities Emergency Services also co-sponsors the St. Cloud Area Toys for Tots program in conjunction with the Valhalla Detachment of the Department of Minnesota Marine Corps League. The program is for children ages 14 and under who would not otherwise receive a gift during the holiday season and helps many communities served by Stearns Electric Association. In 2023, more than 650 families and nearly 1,500 children received gifts at Christmastime. 

“We are extremely grateful for the continued support we receive through Stearns Electric’s ORU program and your members,” Vollen concluded. “Donations like the one we received in November from the Operation Round Up® program and the Cooperative’s member-consumers help keep our programs running. By rounding up, they’re giving back to their community, to their neighbors in need. That’s a powerful thing and we’re thankful.” 

Learn more about Catholic Charities and its service programs at

Learn more about the ORU program or view the full list of the November 2023 ORU recipients at