By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Ninety-seven thousand, seven hundred and seventy.
That’s how many sandwiches the Lester Prairie Sandwich Ministry has made and donated to help the homeless in Minneapolis since 2010.
“We’ll have to celebrate when we get to 100,000,” commented Lester Prairie’s Jane Holasek, who heads up the ministry.
And at the rate they’re going, that won’t take long.
The third Thursday of every month, a group of 15 to 20 volunteers makes 1,020 sandwiches in less than one hour. They use 85 loaves of bread, filling 10 cardboard boxes to the brim.
“They’ve got it down to a science,” Holasek said.
Volunteers meet in the lower level of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie at 8:30 a.m., and they’re usually done by about 9:20 a.m. Everyone’s job is important, whether it’s moving palettes of bread, adding bologna slices, or placing the individual sandwiches into plastic bags.
Sandwiches are assembled without mayo or butter, so they will keep longer without refrigeration. Nothing is wasted, and even the leftover bread crumbs are gathered to feed the birds.
Each bagged sandwich includes a sticker with a Bible verse. This month, the chosen verse was 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Spiritual encouragement is a big part of the Lester Prairie Sandwich Ministry, and participants pray for the people who will receive the sandwiches.
Marie Sandvik Center
The boxes of sandwiches go to the Marie Sandvik Center, located at 1112 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. Longtime volunteer Debbie Marks usually takes care of the delivery.
“What’s nice is that it’s a Christian facility, so they also take donations of Bibles and Sunday school supplies,” Marks said.
The Marie Sandvik Center offers programs to help adults and children physically and spiritually.
The center’s website notes: “All of our guests hear the message of hope for the sinner and freedom in Christ from all the snares of sinful living. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution, abuse, and sometimes just bad life choices lead many people to our center for help. We stand ready with the Gospel and love of Jesus to aid all of the lost and broken folks the Lord leads to us.”
The center began with adult ministries in 1940, and a children’s program was added in 1965. Visitors are able to participate in small group Bible studies, and they also receive food, clothing, and warm blankets.
At St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church and at First Community Bank in Lester Prairie, there is a box where community members can donate quilts or clothing items. New socks and underwear are especially appreciated. With winter approaching, there is also a need for coats, boots, and shoes. A full list of needs is on the Marie Sandvik Center website (see link at www.herald-journal.com).
Anyone who would like to help with the Lester Prairie Sandwich Ministry can contact Holasek at 320-395-2780. Volunteers can be from any community, and they don’t need to be a member of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Lester Prairie’s sandwich ministry began as an offshoot of similar ministries already in existence at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Winsted and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Howard Lake. Howard Lake’s ministry is still active, and meets the first Thursday of each month.
Lester Prairie’s first sandwich-making event took place July 21, 2010, with youth from St. Paul’s church as the first participants. Now, volunteers are a variety of age ranges.
Supplies are purchased from Glenn’s SuperValu in Winsted, with money donated by community members. About $300 is needed each month.
“We have always had enough funds,” Holasek said, adding that she has seen many little “miracles” with this ministry.
“God always provides,” she said.