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DULUTH — About 800 boxes of cereal, mostly varieties of Cheerios, as well as $50,000 were collected in Duluth in the week since community organizers took a public diss from Park Point properties' owner Kathy Cargill and turned it into a goodwill game.

The Duluth Cheerio Challenge asked residents to donate cereal or money that would be divvied up among local food shelves and other similar organizations — Chum Center, Salvation Army, Damiano Center and Union Gospel Mission. The call to action followed an interview Cargill, of the family of billionaires, gave the Wall Street Journal about her plans for the 20 some parcels of land she has purchased on Park Point over the past few years.

Previously, Cargill had ignored interview requests, including several from the Star Tribune.

In the story, Cargill shared neighborhood improvement plans she had been considering — like pickleball courts and a coffee shop — but no longer planned to do. She said Duluth Mayor Roger Reinert, who had questioned Cargill's motives, "kind of peed in his Cheerios" and said with all of the questions surrounding her purchases she is "not going to do anything to benefit that community."

Duluthians had a response. The Cheerio Challenge Facebook page went up last Monday and quickly collected a following that had surpassed 1,200 by week's end.

"Rather than pee in our Cheerios, we're going to collect Cheerios and give them to those in need," organizer Chad McKenna says in an introductory video that was shared more than 450 times.

On Monday, organizers shared the final results in an office at the drop-off spot, backed by hundreds of boxes of cereal ranging from Honey Nut Cheerios to Very Berry Cheerios and bags of bulk off-brands. Kate Van Daele, a behind-the-scenes spokeswoman for the drive, said that the $50,000 collected was an estimate because some of these organizations had been involved with other simultaneous fundraising drives.

"To have the community show that kind of support, to be so creative and take something that is getting a lot of attention and turn it into specific organizing, specific targeted donations that the whole community can get behind, it's really a beautiful thing," said Seth Currier, executive director of the Damiano Center, which serves breakfast daily to up to 150 people.

Project Joy, a Northland nonprofit, donated $20,000.

McKenna said there was a steady stream of drop-offs at the Labor Temple — enough for his colleagues to suggest he post a sign directing donations to the cereal table.

"It's been a whirlwind," he said last week. "Duluth just banding together in a creative way is very Duluth."

Reinert, the protagonist in Cargill's cereal quote, was among the local politicians photographed holding a box of cereal at the drop-off spot.

The challenge has proven timely, according to Katie Hagglund, executive director of the Union Gospel Mission, which has gotten thousands of views on its own Cheerio Challenge video. The organization that served 3,100 meals in February 2023 served more than 5,900 in February 2024.

"It's been really beautiful to see the community rally around organizations that are here to benefit the community and have been doing that for a long time," she said.

Nancy Leslie of the Salvation Army said cereal is the most expensive thing the organization buys for its food shelf.

Scott Van Daele, director of distribution services at Chum, said a lot of times people donate, then move on. This campaign, he said, shed a bigger light on hunger in the Twin Ports and how it isn't going away. The organization goes through 800 boxes of cereal per month. The challenge drew donations from as far away as Florida and California.

"No one had any idea of what this would really turn into," he said.