By Nancy Dashwood
HOWARD LAKE The first congregation of St. James Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, was comprised primarily of German Lutherans, who organized officially in 1872, and incorporated in late 1875.
Following the final payment for their church building, congregants turned their attention to the creation of a Lutheran school. Since 1918, the school has stood in its same location at 10th Street and 7th Avenue in Howard Lake.
The stated goal of the school from its opening day, was to teach students to be good citizens of God’s kingdom, and also of the United States.
Classic classes begin
Fifty students enrolled for the school’s first year of classes in 1918. A teacher was hired to educate students from the sixth to eighth grades.
In 1920, the school hired its first principal, Henry Miller.
For St. James School’s first four decades, religion, and German reading and writing were taught by the church’s pastor.
Growth for God
Throughout the ensuing years, grades were added, until St. James Lutheran School staff taught students ranging in age from first to eighth grade.
Student and staff population boomed, causing a need for a major addition, which was built primarily by volunteers between 1951-52.
The steady growth continued, leading to the additional construction of four classrooms and a staff room in 1967.
Kindergarten class was added in 1978.
By 1996, it became obvious to members that more space was necessary to keep up with the active church and school.
Feb. 2, 1997, the congregation voted to approve a large addition, which would feature a full-size gym, new bathrooms with changing rooms, a library, an additional classroom, and a kitchen.
Despite several stalls in the initial stages of the project, ground-breaking took place Sept. 7, 1997.
As winter approached, building footings had to be covered after being poured. Three 35-foot-tall gym arches were installed with the use of three cranes.
With the tall arches in place, crews were able to weld steel walls together.
Main framing of the new addition took place through the spring of 1998.
Despite a few setbacks, such as purchasing rock to give the construction trucks a path to the building site; the arrival of an order of incorrect windows; and building codes which required changes to meet standards for handicapped-accessibility, including an elevator; the project moved along.
In the end, the total cost of the fellowship hall, school addition, and building improvements totaled more than $1 million.
Students began using the updated facilities upon their return from Christmas break in 1999. The addition was officially dedicated Jan. 17, 1999.
St. James of 2018
Today, St. James Lutheran School educates approximately 105 student ranging in age from preschoolers to eighth-graders.
Students from a variety of denominations are enrolled, and some students come to the school from Buffalo, Cokato, Lester Prairie, Montrose, Waverly and Winsted.
St. James Lutheran School employs six full-time and three part-time licensed teachers; and two part-time resource aides. The school students are the beneficiaries of the time and talents of many volunteers, as well.
Weekly chapel offers a worship experience once a week for the student body, and religious instruction takes place at all grade levels. Other subjects taught include math, reading, English, literature and writing, spelling, science and social studies.
Extra-curricular activities are offered, and students utilize up-to-date technology such as a computer lab, library, Chromebooks, and interactive white boards.
Second annual Saints Gala to honor centennial
Staff, parents and volunteers are working together to host a celebratory 1920s-themed bash for the school Saturday, March 17.
Chris Cardinal’s three daughters attend the school, and her husband, Jeremy, attended, as well.
Cardinal, with a host of volunteers, is overseeing the planning of this year’s gala.
“We will be decorating with black, gold, pearls, and feathers,” she said. “We are hoping to have an entrance people wouldn’t expect, and even a coat check. People are encouraged to dress to the 1920s theme, but it is not a requirement.”
The event will kick off with a social hour at 4:30 p.m. A silent auction will be open from 4:30-6:45 p.m., and dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. A live auction will garner attention from 7-8 p.m. Entertainment will follow at 8 p.m.
The evening’s repast will be provided by Hollywood Catering Company, which will be serving two meats, vegetable, salad, and a roll.
Cardinal indicated the event’s silent auction has something to suit everyone.
“We have some wonderful items for the silent auction,” she said. “Water park passes, zip line adventures, museum passes, theater tickets, movies, baskets with themes such as coffee or chocolate. Many local business have offered gift certificates, and items from their stores, as well.”
“We will have a dessert live auction before the actual live auction begins,” Cardinal said. “This allows either a table or person to bid on a special dessert. Whoever wins this can choose to eat at the event or save it for later.”
Live auction items will include class projects St. James teachers have made with their students, and some other bigger items.
O’Sullivan Auctioneers will be back this year, and Cardinal said the process is very entertaining to watch.
Further entertainment for the evening includes a show by Kevin Doely, a musical ventriloquist.
The gala even caters to little ones: younger children may hang out in the daycare, provided free of charge by St. James’ youth group. The children will enjoy crafts, movie time, games, and a special kid-friendly dinner.
For those wishing to attend or help out
“Anyone can attend the event, donate items, or make a financial donation,” Cardinal said. “They can drop off donations at St. James Church, or the school office, or contact me, and I will gladly pick up donations.”
Cardinal will also have the latest information on ticket availability. Tickets are $40 each, and are not available at the door. For more information, call Cardinal at (612) 240-8601.