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Filling veterans with food . . . and fresh hope
Dec. 6, 2019

Nancy Dashwood
Staff Writer

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – Melissa Williams of Lester Prairie said she has always had a heart to help people find the nourishment they need.

Recently, she has had the opportunity to put that sentiment into action. Williams, with the full support and helping hands of her congregation at Harvest Community Church, has started a sandwich ministry which benefits homeless veterans in Minneapolis.

“One way to help”

Williams first became aware of the need for sandwiches when her husband, John, who works at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis, toured the Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC), also in Minneapolis.

The CRRC is a facility that helps homeless or struggling veterans find job placement, housing, and other resources. CRRC also provides a laundry facility, a computer area, and showers.

When people visit CRRC, they are typically offered a sandwich, and sometimes a hot meal.

An employee at the CRRC happened to mention to John that they were in need of someone to make sandwiches. He immediately thought of his wife.

“This is one way to help,” Williams said she thought. “If you think about it, food is a part of our life in every aspect. If we’re happy, we eat fun food or fun drink. If we’re sad, we eat comfort food. At holidays, we make special food. Food helps us focus on life.”

Abundant help

Williams said that once she began searching for people to help her make sandwiches, she was not disappointed.

“When I put the word out there about what I was doing and the need, many people stepped up to help,” she said.

Williams found some volunteers, and then began asking around for donations. Once again, people responded quickly.

“The Dollar General stores have donated some bread,” Williams said. “Others have donated money; some people have brought cheese or lunch meat. It’s different every time. A total stranger used her Thrivent grant to help the cause,” she said.

Williams now spearheads a sandwich-making group of volunteers at 12:15 p.m. the fourth Sunday of each month at her church. (Harvest Community Church shares a building with the Prairie Community Church in Lester Prairie.)

The group currently constructs 17 bread loaves worth of sandwiches every month.

Williams said that if the group runs out of sandwich meat, they simply switch to peanut butter and jelly.

How about hot lunch?

Williams said the people of CRRC are grateful for the food. Hot meals are always appreciated, as well, and Williams is working on that option.

“I am hoping to be able to make some hot meals,” she said, “So, if anyone is interested in helping with that project, please get a hold of me.”

Williams suggested that people could make soups and put them in gallon bags, and freeze them. She would then be able to bring soup along with the sandwich delivery each month.

“I can bring the soups or make an extra trip if we have enough,” she said.

Williams is also happy to do some cooking. “If someone wanted to donate a turkey or roasts, I would be willing to cook them and then bring them for hot meals,” Williams said.

She said she just likes the idea of helping people who may literally have nothing.

“Hopefully, some food in their stomachs will help these veterans get through whatever it is that they’re going through,” she said. “Give them a hope. And let them know that they do matter.”

Lend a hand

Williams said anyone is welcome to join her group for sandwich making the fourth Sunday of every month, at 12:30 p.m., at Harvest Community Church in Lester Prairie. The church is located at 700 1st Avenue N., which is also the Prairie Community Church building.

Questions and donations may be directed to Williams at 320-282-3816.

For more information on the Community Resource and Referral Center, CLICK HERE.

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