10 churches give 4,232 pounds of products, nearly $70,000 to food shelves

Pequot Lakes, Nisswa and Crosslake churches take part in third annual Lenten event

Food Shelf Lenten Challenge-copy.jpg
From left are Deacon Rick Paine, Pastor Stephen Blenkush, Pastor Drew Bakken, Lakes Area Food Shelf board chair Tim Moore and Pastor Jen Matthees, shown April 5, 2023, at the food shelf as part of the Lenten Food Shelf Challenge.
Dan Determan / Echo Journal

PEQUOT LAKES — Donations came to Lakes Area Food Shelf in Pequot Lakes by the carload Wednesday, April 5, as officials from local churches of all denominations finished their annual Lenten Food Shelf Challenge.

The challenge saw participating local churches encourage their parishioners to give what they could to the local food shelf — as well as the Crosslake Food Shelf — from Ash Wednesday until Palm Sunday.

Seven churches took part in the challenge — Crosslake Presbyterian and Crosslake Lutheran churches, whose donations went to the Crosslake Food Shelf; and Lutheran Church of the Cross and St. Christopher Catholic churches in Nisswa, along with Grace United Methodist, St. Alice Catholic and Our Savior's Lutheran churches in Pequot Lakes, whose donations went to the Lakes Area Food Shelf.

Other churches — Christ Community and Timberwood churches in Nisswa, Pequot Lakes Baptist Church and Our Lady of the Lakes Parish — donated to the Lakes Area Food Shelf as part of the food shelf's March campaign as well.

In total, 4,232 pounds of food and hygiene products were donated to the Lakes Area Food Shelf, along with nearly $70,000 in monetary donations.


“On the one hand, we are blown away,” Lakes Area Food Shelf Director Kathy Adams said. “On the other hand, the communities we serve are the most amazing people. They want to dig in and build a strong community.

“Our community has food. It has nutrition. Our whole faith community is working together to make sure people in our communities are fed," she said. "The churches like to compete, but we all know the amount doesn’t matter — it is the contribution of hearts and generosity. That is what it means to the communities we serve — to the people we serve.”

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The Lenten challenge began three years ago, with just Pastor Stephen Blenkush at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and Jen Matthees at Grace United Methodist Church, both in Pequot Lakes, taking part.

“Jen and I were having coffee shortly after she arrived (at her parish in 2020),” Blenkush said. “Jen actually brought the idea up of doing the food shelf challenge just as a way to sort of do something with area churches.”

In year two, Lutheran Church of the Cross joined the challenge, and this year four more area churches participated.

“It has just grown since then, and that was the hope,” Matthees said. “Everyone has a church connection, so it makes for that kind of healthy rivalry.”

Nisswa’s Lutheran Church of the Cross congregation was the big giver of the group this year, with 1,038 pounds of goods donated.

“This is just something that we continue to want to provide and have a helping hand,” said Pastor Drew Bakken, of Lutheran Church of the Cross. “There is such a need in our community. So often, we don't want to share that need and this is one way in which our churches can get together and make a big dent in providing help.”


Monetarily, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church was the largest donating group, giving more than $32,000. This comes at a time when many in the area are most in need of the food shelf’s help.

“There are a lot of folks who, in previous years, would have given to the food shelf, and now some of those folks are finding that they are dependent on it,” Blenkush said.

The Lenten Food Shelf Challenge is the only ecumenical project local churches take each year. Matthees said she would like to see more, but this is a “good start.”

If more joint projects spring forth, local ministers hope the community’s magnanimity from the food shelf challenge carries over to other pursuits as well.

“The generosity is literally overwhelming,” said Deacon Rick Paine, from the Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Parish. “It is far, far above anything we have ever collectively passed.”

By the numbers

Here is a breakdown of church contributions as part of the Lenten challenge and the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign:

Crosslake Food Shelf

  • Crosslake Presbyterian: $1,195.
  • Crosslake Lutheran: $2,000.

Lakes Area Food Shelf


  • Christ Community: 23 pounds, $850.
  • Timberwood: $5,000.
  • Pequot Lakes Baptist: 290 pounds, $200.
  • Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Parish: $1,807.
  • Grace United Methodist: 720 pounds, $1,365.
  • St. Alice Catholic: 702 pounds, $7,866.
  • St. Christopher Catholic: 897 pounds, $9,978.
  • Lutheran Church of the Cross: 1,038 pounds, $10,130.
  • Our Savior's Lutheran: 560 pounds, $32,280.

Dan Determan, sports writer/staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5879 or . Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at .

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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