Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - October 26, 2005

Ruth Aulick started Community Service Center in 1965

By Michael Jacobson

Ruth Aulick still remembers being surprised upon hearing that some students in Paynesville were going to school hungry.

"I thought, 'Kids hungry? In Paynesville?'" recalled Aulick, who founded the Paynesville Area Community Service Center in 1965.

She and a friend went to the kids' house and found five kids with a babysitter without any food in the house. Their father was visiting their mother in the hospital.

The babysitter was feeding an 18-month-old toddler water because there was no milk. The women had brought a loaf of homemade bread but went home and filled the backseat of a car with food for the family. Ruth told them, "If you need help, I will come."

Two weeks later, in January, she and her husband Ernie opened their home to the five kids for a week. The kids wanted cereal for breakfast, remembered Aulick, something they had never had before.

Ruth Soon, Aulick began hearing about, and helping, many families in need. "I found much poverty all over," she said. "Once you find one family, you find others, too. Word of mouth gets around."

Ruth Aulick - pictured in the attic of city hall - founded the Paynesville Area Community Service Center in 1965. It was first located in her basement, then at city hall until 1983, and in a house on River Street since then.

For a decade, Aulick operated the foodshelf out of her basement, opening her house to the needy for a Christmas party each year as well.

People were "more than willing to help if they know there is a genuine need," said Aulick. "Our basement was so full. When I started asking (for donations), they came in droves."

Another woman who Aulick visited in those early years was confined to bed and dressed in rags. She was so grateful for a sponge bath that Aulick, a former nurse, had given and for Aulick's visit.

Upon leaving, Aulick remembers praying, "Oh, God, you don't expect me to go back there. But I promised I'd go once a week." So she did.

Actually, she opened her home to that family for a wedding and got flowers, professional photographs, an organist, dresses, sports coat, and a honeymoon suite donated for the wedding. Aulick had some reservations about having the wedding at her house, but found that the family was incredibly respectful and immensely thankful.

She felt that it was God's calling for her to help those in need. She was prepared to do so, not only through her background in nursing but by her own upbringing, having grown up poor to Norwegian immigrant parents in Minneapolis.

Aulick, who will turn 79 in November, remembers fixing holes in her shoes with newspaper and getting donated food at the holidays, which was a treat.

In the mid-1970s, the city of Paynesville offered Aulick a space for the Community Service Center in the attic of old city hall. The space was nice, said Aulick, but it was hot in the summer and frigid cold in the winter. Aulick used to have to wear her winter coat while working in the attic in the winter.

"I'd kneel on the floor and pray, 'We've got to have something better,'" she recalled.

In 1983, a house on River Street, owned by Wally Thyen, was located. Aulick called the house a "Godsend" for the center.

The house, which Thyen was going to tear down for a parking lot for his grocery store, was meant to be a temporary arrangement but lasted as the home for the center for 22 years.

Aulick, said Thyen, who joined the board of directors 22 years ago, always went "above and beyond the call of duty" in running the Community Service Center.

"You don't have to go to Africa for missions. There's lots of need around here," said Thyen. "When there's someone in need, there needs to be a place for them."

The new Paynesville Area Community Service Center shows "that people in the Paynesville area are caring people," said Thyen.

Aulick, who still works one day a week at community services in Florida during the winter, agreed that "the townspeople have been fantastic."

"The house has outlived its usefulness," she said. "They need a new building desperately. It's far more than I ever anticipated for Paynesville."

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community