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Instead of hosting a fundraiser at the Faribault American Legion like previous years, Ruth’s House opted to hold a COVID-friendly virtual fundraiser online Feb. 13. Pictured last year, Tony Langerud, back right, reacts excitedly during a game of heads or tails at the 2020 Ruth’s House of Hope Hearts Gala. (File photo/southernminn.com)

Women in crisis situations have turned to Ruth’s House of Hope for shelter and resources, and with COVID-19 adding insult to injury, the nonprofit has accrued extra expenses to support its residents.

This time of year, the nonprofit usually prepares for its biggest fundraiser, the Hearts Gala at the Faribault American Legion. Gathering over 300 guests under one roof isn’t conducive to COVID-19 guidelines, however, so Ruth’s House has a different plan.

In place of the Heart’s Gala, Ruth’s House will host the first annual Helping Hearts online fundraiser at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13. Registration for the event is available at ruthshousemn.org/helpinghearts. Proceeds from the event will benefit Ruth’s House of Hope as well as Sarah’s House, a sober-living home in Northfield where up to five women may stay at a time after they complete rehabilitation treatment.

“We have just one staff on duty; volunteers are not coming into the shelter to keep everyone safe and healthy,” said Sandy Varley, communications and outreach coordinator for Ruth’s House. “We’ve had to put residents in a hotel to quarantine. There are so many extra expenses.”

Varley said COVID-19 has brought on new struggles for women and children staying at Ruth’s House, including job loss and mental health issues. Trying to help their children with distance learning has added another layer of difficulty, she said, particularly for those with learning disabilities or language barriers. Even after everyone has been vaccinated, Varley said the repercussions will persist with the Ruth’s House population as they try to find jobs.

The other major need for Ruth’s House relates to the house itself. Varley said the third floor bathroom is in need of a remodel, so a portion of the fundraiser’s proceeds will go toward that project.

Ruth’s House also has an annual budget of about $270,000, and while about 43% of that funding comes from grants, it’s the community that funds the remainder.

“We are hoping to raise $125,000,” Varley said. “That’s our goal. That’s a lofty goal, but we’re hoping that happens for us.”

In 2020, the Hearts Gala raised $122,000 to put toward three main projects, including a Housing and Urban Development grant to fund the Ruth’s House off campus long-term supportive housing program in Faribault and Northfield. The other two facility projects included a security upgrade to protect residents, and the repair and restoration of the six pillars that hold up the historic house’s third floor.

Like the Hearts Gala, the Helping Hearts event will include speakers, a silent auction and live auction items for bidding. The silent and live auctions open a week before the event itself, at 7 p.m. Feb. 6, and close at 7 p.m. Feb. 14. At hhe.cbo.io., guests may bid on items like a one-week stay at Crown Point Resort, Bloom floral bouquets for a year, and classic pedicures for a year from Sunset Salon & Spa, among other offerings.

For entertainment, Faribault High School alumna Abigail Engbrecht will deliver a solo performance and national speaker and author Brenda Elsagher will share her comedy act “Can You See Me Laughing Behind My Mask?”

“We’re really excited about this,” Varley said. “I think it’s going to open up some new opportunities. What’s exciting is we were limited before to how many people could attend at the American Legion, and now it’s open to anyone with an internet connection. We’re excited to get our message out to more people.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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