In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, area food shelves saw both hardships and an outpouring of generosity.

This year, however, the Lakes Area Food Shelf in Pequot Lakes will have to do without one of its primary fundraisers as the Nisswa Christmas Home Tour was canceled.

The Christmas Home Tour, in what would have been its 31st year, sees Nisswa merchants deck out homes for Christmas, and allows the public to pay for tickets to take in the decorations with funds going toward the food shelf.

In previous years, the funds brought in by the event have provided more than 65,000 pounds of food.

“The Christmas Home Tour has been a huge end-of-year fundraiser for the Lakes Area Food Shelf,” food shelf director Tammy Larsen said. “It was a hard thing for us, as a food shelf that has been dependent on that for many, many years.”

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Fortunately, the food shelf found a bit of a lifeline in the form of the Fletcher Family Foundation, which offered a $10,000 matching donation to the food shelf. The donation will be matched against any funds that come into the food shelf from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

“They are actually based out of Washington, D.C., but they have a home on Pelican (Lake),” Larsen said. “They have been sheltering here because of COVID, retired from their jobs in Washington, and have been here since March or April.”

To help the food shelf achieve that matching goal, 11 local businesses have lined up an event called Fall Into Christmas, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6-7, in the hopes of attracting non-hunters to shop locally. During this time, participating stores plan to donate 5% of their earnings for that weekend to the food shelf. Those businesses will also set out pickle jars to collect donations directly from customers.

“Monte (Morken) from Buffalo Plaid (in downtown Nisswa) and I put it together so we could give something to the food shelf,” said Kim Piehl, owner of Olde Crow Gatherings, also located in downtown Nisswa. “They are going to miss out on a lot of money for meals (without the home tour) so we put this together and got other store owners involved … It won’t be as much as we have normally done, but it will be something.”

The Fall Into Christmas event is being done with the help of these Nisswa businesses: Anchored In Nisswa, Buffalo Plaid, J’s Woodworking and Brenda’s Seasonal Specialties, Kisa Boutique, Meg’s Cabin, Olde Crow Gatherings, Tattered Edges, Dock Panther, Totem Pole, Turtle Town Books & Gifts, and Quirks!

“Each store is offering certain discounts and giveaways,” Piehl said. “We are trying to put together a silent auction, and that money would also go to the food shelf.”

The food shelf saw many donations come in during the early months of the pandemic, but saw those donations decrease in the early summer months. However, the number of individuals seeking goods at the food shelf also decreased at that time, with people using stimulus checks to purchase necessary goods. The food shelf also felt some benefits of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ $100 million donation to U.S. food banks.

With school back in session, Larsen suspects numbers will go back up, and hopes donations increase as well.

For those looking to donate directly to the food shelf, Larsen said the best donation to give is cash.

“A $10 donation gets us about $200 worth of groceries, toilet paper and whatever else for our clientele,” she said.

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.