Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 15, 2003

Charity begins at home for local church youth

By Jody Anderson

"Charity begins at home" took on a special meaning for local church youth when they prepared and transported 50 care boxes for residents of the homeless shelter Dream Center in St. Cloud recently.

The project was a collaborative effort of St. John's Lutheran Church of Howard Lake and St. Mary's Catholic Church of Waverly, with the support of several area businesses and organizations.

Sixth grade religion students Tony Heisler, Christine Bobrowske, Sarah Schaar, Samantha Mattson, Daniel Stuhr, Joseph Jarof, Josh Wren, Abbie Hoberg, Andrew Maas, Phillip Franke, Becca Lockwood, Andrea Voves, Ashley Bickmann, Matt Arlien, and Ben Kittock packed 30 boxes for men and 20 boxes for women with personal hygiene products and socks, for the residents of the Dream Center.

The students brought donated clothing to the Dream Center, sorted it, and wrapped the best articles, along with several blankets donated by another organization for Christmas presents.

The youth also prepared and served a meal at the center, conversed with the residents, and also shoveled sidewalks.

Then the students were enlightened and entertained by the residents with a skit about being homeless. "Being homeless doesn't mean you don't have any fun," Heisler said. "I'm glad we went," Arlein, " I learned a lot."

"The kids put a lot of effort into this project, and it was good teamwork," commented Karen Erickson, who coordinated the project.

Erickson was supported in her efforts by many people, including Dorie Haller, Julie Munson, and Pam Wren, who were quite impressed with the shelter.

The Dream Center has room for 30 residents, with a strict set of rules to be followed, with the residents being held accountable for daily chores, attending religious classes, and searching for a job.

An average stay lasts three months. They also provide affordable housing for people who are getting back on their feet and starting a new credit history.

"They bring the homeless in to get them on their feet again, so they can dream again," Erickson commented.

She was also very impressed with their level of efficiency "Nothing is wasted there," she said, "any donation they can't directly use they pass on to local crisis shelters and food shelves."

The experience has served to encourage further efforts to help those less fortunate. The sixth graders plan to bag groceries for tips at Buffalo Cub Foods Dec. 22, with the proceeds going towards purchasing food for the Wright County Food Shelf.

In addition, they are also planning a sleep over in boxes in a parking lot in order to experience first hand the homeless experience.

The youth continue to look for new projects. "Anyone who wants help with a charity project is welcome to contact both institutions," Erickson said. "We'll be happy to help out."

Those interested in helping the Dream Center may contact them at (320) 656-1550, and the Wright County Clothing Center and Food Shelf at (763) 658-4414.

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