By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Eighty-five loaves of bread, 58 jumbo packs of bologna, and a generous helping of love the Lester Prairie Sandwich Ministry is feeding the hungry, one month at a time.
“We pray over the sandwiches and those who will be receiving them,” organizer Jane Holasek said. “It feels so good to be able to help someone else.”
The ministry began one year ago, when local youth assembled sandwiches at Vacation Bible School.
Now, about 18 to 30 volunteers of all ages continue the service. They meet at 9 a.m. the fourth Thursday of each month at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church basement. If the church is occupied at that time, the group gathers at Lester Prairie City Hall.
“It’s held at St. Paul’s, but it’s a community ministry,” Holasek said. “It’s not just affiliated with one church.”
Sandwiches are made on white bread, using common sandwich meats like bologna and summer sausage, and no butter or mayo.
They are then bagged with a Bible verse, boxed, and driven down to the Marie Sandvick Center in Minneapolis.
“This ministry was introduced to us by [Winsted native] Connie Dehn, who works with Servant Life Ministries,” according to Holasek.
The group takes about 1,000 sandwiches a month to the homeless center, where they are distributed to people in need.
About 250 children are fed each week, and the remainder of the sandwiches are used for the center’s adult programs. In addition to food, the center also provides clothing in the wintertime.
Those receiving assistance are required to attend a worship service or Bible study.
“It’s something for the body and the soul,” Holasek said.
Although some believe that poor people are not willing to work, Holasek said that isn’t always the case.
“The problem is, many of them are children, who were born into the situation through no fault of their own,” Holasek said. “Also, many of them are handicapped in some way, and because of that, they can’t find work.”
When she visited the center, Holasek said she also saw several people who had jobs, but were still struggling financially.
“There’s a great need for a lot of working poor,” she said.
Holasek said she appreciates all the people who have helped make the Lester Prairie Sandwich Ministry a success. The Lions Club recently made a sizeable donation, and Bongards’ Creamery supplied cheese at Christmastime.
The ministry purchases supplies from Prairie Market in Lester Prairie in order to support local business.
Holasek said they used to spend about $180 per month, but lately, it’s been more.
“With the rising cost of food, our money doesn’t go as far as it used to,” she said. “Now, it’s closer to $225 or $250.”
Even with higher food prices, the sandwiches are a relatively inexpensive way to feed the hungry.
“I encourage people to donate any amount,” Holasek said. “You can feed a lot of people for $5.”
The price of gas also adds to the ministry’s costs. Typically, a volunteer will drive the sandwiches to the center the day they are made.
“Vern Christenson [of Winsted] has been a very dedicated volunteer driver,” Holasek said.
Anyone who would like to be a volunteer driver can contact Holasek at (320) 395-2780.
Those who would like to help assemble sandwiches can go to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Thursday, July 28 at 9 a.m.
“It’s very easy, and it’s a fun time, too,” Holasek said. “We form an assembly line, and we’re able to do it in less than an hour.”
Donations to the Lester Prairie Sandwich Ministry can be dropped off or mailed to First Community Bank, PO Box 128, Lester Prairie, MN 55354, or St. Paul Lutheran Church, PO Box 38 in Lester Prairie.