Methodist, Lutheran congregations in Redwood Falls raise funds to collect food for school backpack program, local food shelf

Troy Krause
A number of representatives from Gloria Dei Lutheran and First United Methodist churches in Redwood Falls, with assistance from Walmart employees, collected cereal and peanut butter for the school backpack program and the local food shelf.

Randy Koppen, First United Methodist Church pastor, threw down the gauntlet.

Bryant Kaden, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church pastor, accepted the challenge.

The question then was could the two Redwood Falls congregations meet the lofty goal that had been established?

That question was answered Aug. 24 when a number of individuals representing both churches walked into the local Walmart store ready to work and came out with shopping carts full of food items for two local causes.

The cereal and peanut butter collected that day, as well as that which had been collected before that and is still being donated, is going to help meet the needs of people in the community.

Some of it will be used in a school backpack program offered at Reede Gray Elementary School. Through it, students are given food they can take home with them over the weekends to ensure they have something to eat during the days when they are not at school.

In addition, collected items were also given to the Redwood Area Food Shelf.

“I felt God compelled me to begin this peanut butter/cereal collection as one way to draw attention to how, when we gather to do good, it can outpace the division and negative which seems too abundant in our current culture,” explained Koppen. 

Koppen contacted Cindy Mumme of the Redwood Area Food Shelf and inquired specifically if peanut butter and cereal are items they could use. When the food shelf receives cereal from food drives, it all goes right away as it is brand names.

According to Koppen, the food shelf is a ministry the Methodist church has partnered with for many years.

“The weekend backpack food for students at Reede Gray is also a ministry and has worked in cooperation with First Presbyterian and Gloria Dei for many years,” Koppen explained. “Jackie Ourada, the Reede Gray social worker, administers the program, and the churches gather and deliver the food to school each week. We’ve been neighbors to Reede Gray for 60 years. Reede Gray was even a Methodist member back in the day.

"Recently our connection to the students and staff includes asking all of the teachers what their classrooms wanted for Christmas and then bringing them over much on their wish list – including a book for every student. We pray for the kids by name at least once a month. During the pandemic we sent over various treats to the teachers and staff.”

Koppen added Clara Friese said it best “everybody wins with this.”

“That is one of the reasons so many people have responded to the invitation to give peanut butter and cereal. We’ve collected and/or purchased locally over 385 jars of peanut butter and 433 boxes of cereal. We desired to support our local grocery stores, so the financial gifts are split between purchases at Tersteeg’s and Walmart,” indicated Koppen. “We have a God who loves to give, and we’re created in God’s image. Perhaps this endeavor is popular because it is easy to be a part of it and people have confidence in the food shelf and backpack program. The food will be used and appreciated.”

According to Kaden, “at Gloria Dei, our vision statement says we are ‘Glorifying and serving God by living our faith daily.’ We do this by loving our neighbors. Feeding those who are hungry is certainly a part of that. We want to do this in ways that are life-giving to those we seek to serve, not just so that we feel better about ourselves."

Kaden added they know that things like the backpack program, food shelf and Ruby’s Pantry are vital to making sure every person in the community can be well fed.

“We also know that the shared witness of the Christian community is important in these ministries,” Kaden added. “We certainly don’t have the resources to do it all ourselves as one congregation, so it’s important that congregations work together. Above all, it’s an opportunity for Christians of different denominations to come together and say, ‘We love you. God loves you.’”

According to Kaden, good-natured ribbing and competition aside, it’s been encouraging to see so many ways people have stepped up to help their neighbors during these trying times.

“Thank you to everyone who has participated. We know there is still a lot of work to be done, but we trust that God will provide for the needs of all through acts of loving kindness, both large and small,” added Kaden.

According to Friese, who helped to coordinate the event, Gloria Dei re-challenged the Methodist church to meet at Walmart Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. to fill carts with all the cereal and peanut butter they could collect with cash donations.

“We will be collecting these items through Labor Day along with cash donations to purchase more,” added Friese.