The Brandon Area Food Pantry has a ‘guardian angel’ that appeared, some would say, out of nowhere.
Henry Mueller, who lives in nearby Tea, happened to catch a television news report that featured Linda Weber, the longtime executive director of the Brandon Area Food Pantry. From that chance viewing, Henry immediately told his wife, Margie, the BAFP would be their next non-profit to reap the benefits of their giving ways.
This week, a trio of Mueller Pallets “elves” – Margie Mueller, Rebeccaa Jongeling and Abby Murphy – delivered pounds and pounds of donations to the BAFP. The shelves are now lined with boxes of Hamburger Helper, ketchup and mustard, chocolate chip cookie mixes, granola bars, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and plenty of frozen pizzas.
“Whatever she needed,” Margie Mueller says.
Giving to others has been a way of life for the Muller family. Henry, she explained, picks non-profits who could use a “hand up.” They listed past donations to Honor Flight, Child’s Voice and the Reservations in South Dakota.
“Our family has done a lot in all the communities in South Dakota, especially during COVID,” Margie said. “We’re doing a lot with food banks, a toy drive for the Indian Reservation and a teacher appreciation night at Catfish Bay. But we picked Brandon, because my sister-in-law lives here and we really liked this community and really want to be a part of it, so we got together with Linda and are kind of fulfilling some of the needs.”
Jongeling said Mueller Pallets is making a difference all across South Dakota, noting their donations of butchered beef to Feeding South Dakota in both Pierre and Rapid City.
Margie says she knows no different than to help where help is needed.
“I’ve always been this way,” she said. “The food situation, we really saw when COVID hit. A lot of our employees lost their second jobs, so I first really focused on our employees, making sure that they have enough food at home for their children. Every two weeks, we do a food giveaway to them just like they would go to a food bank. They get the same items that Linda has here and they really, really like it. It’s kind of a bonus to them.”
Margie says their giving ways are made possible with a bit of giving from others, including Fareway.
“They give me a lot of deals for these food banks. Brian and Cullen from Fareway really help us out to put this thing together, and that’s what we need to make it happen,” she said.
Jongeling said they also plant a community garden. One year, they planted nearly 150 tomato plants.
“We had thousands of pounds that we gave out. My husband said that we couldn’t do that many tomato plants because every night we were out their picking them,” Jongeling said.
The bounty from the community garden is shared with their employees, everything from peppers to potatoes, sweet potatoes and sweet corn, cucumbers and melons.
“Our employees got first dibs,” Margie said.
When Weber received the call from Margie that the Brandon Food Pantry was the family company’s organization of choice to support, she was wowed.
“This call was probably the best call that excited me and it excited me because I saw someone else with a passion, a family, which is what we’ve had, Amy and I and the people that have worked here for 14 years, and that is just heartwarming,” she said. “Here come the holidays and then the beginning of the year and stuff and we’ll be ready, which we’re always ready, but now, we’re really ready.”
Adds Margie, “I don’t want to be the holiday person. I want to have that call when she (Weber) has a need. I want to be the person that she can call in July when nobody’s giving. I don’t want to the be the Christmas person. People always give at Christmas and they don’t in May, June and July.”
Mueller Pallets, LLC is a second generation, family-owned business founded in 1980 by Arlin Mueller. The company prides itself on being a high-touch, service business focused on quality assurance and excellence. Now, with nearly 50 full-time employees, the business has expanded to a 40,000 square foot facility serving customers over a 350-mile radius.
Margie Mueller, owner, is a Sioux Falls native with a passion for South Dakota. She is grateful to be working alongside her husband Henry, son Phil, daughter Rebecca and for the home they’ve established on the family’s homesteaded land.