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Frazee School Counselor Shannon Bakkila accepts a check from Bakke-Richwood Lutheran Church pastor Ann Newgard-Larson for the Backpack Program. Submitted Photo

$5K grants go to 3 area churches

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$5K grants go to 3 area churches
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The children of Becker County are going to be able to eat a little better on the weekends, thanks to area churches and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation.

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Bakke-Richwood Parish Church, rural Detroit Lakes, St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Audubon and Cormorant Lutheran Church were chosen to each receive $5,000 from the Economic Outreach Bridge grant as part of Thrivent.

The Bakke Church and St. Peter's donated their funds to the Food for Thought Backpack Program, which feeds children in need over the weekend while they aren't in school. The program is under the United Way umbrella.

Cormorant Lutheran is spreading its $5,000 throughout Pelican Rapids, Detroit Lakes and Lake Park-Audubon as a part of various projects and donations.

This is the third year Thrivent has been giving this grant, and Detroit Lakes representative Chris Cymbaluk said that Thrivent used to donate the money but now through this grant program, local recipients can decide where the money should go.

"The company decided to give back to individuals who gave it," he said.

There were restrictions on what charities the funds could go to as well.

"We do all we can do for the children," St. Peter's Church and Thrivent member Linda Rippy said.

The Backpack Program is a supplement for students in need. The bag of food goes home with kids over the weekend to ensure some healthy, filling foods. During the week, students rely on school lunches.

Each bag is filled with a "couple items from each food group," committee member Doreen Mickelson said. That includes juices, fruits, veggies, grains and heat-and-eat meals, like macaroni and cheese for instance.

There are 180 bags distributed throughout Rossman and Roosevelt elementaries in Detroit Lakes, Frazee-Vergas Elementary and Lake Park-Audubon Elementary. And there's always a need for more.

Mickelson said the program has been around for five years and has grown over those few years. It started as a pilot program in Detroit Lakes and grew to include Frazee and LP-A. It costs $4 per bag, or $144 a year, to feed one child.

The schools identify the children that could benefit most from the program. The bags are prepared and delivered and teachers slip them into the backpacks so others don't know the identities of the children.

Mickelson said that it's stories like that of a second-grader who just learned he would be receiving a backpack. She said he told his teacher that he was so blessed to be getting this food for the weekend.

"That reiterates how important this program is," United Way Director LuAnn Porter said. "It will feed a lot of kids, that $5,000."

Members of the churches had to fill out the grant application to Thrivent. Mickelson is a member at St. Peter's, so she asked that the money be donated to that Backpack Program, and her grant co-writers agreed.

Bakke Church Pastor Ann Newgard-Larson said their church decided to donate the church's $5,000 to the Frazee Backpack Program, also hoping to help those students in need.

Porter said that it's a proven fact that students learn better and are healthier on full stomachs.

Sharon Teschendorf with Cormorant Lutheran Church said the church gives to many different charities in the area, and the $5,000 the church was awarded will be dispersed to multiple charities.

Last year alone, the church has given money and other items to the Lake Park-Audubon schools, the Becker County Food Pantry, The Refuge, Mary's Place at the Lakes Crisis and Resource Center, the Pelican Rapids Community Food Shelf, the Welcome Place in Pelican Rapids, the thrift store in Pelican Rapids, Lutheran Social Services in Pelican Rapids and Lutheran Student Housing at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Last year, the church donated $16,000 to the various programs.

"Those are the projects we keep our eyes on to see if they need any special help anytime," Teschendorf said. "It will be used between all those."

She said the church also hosts a giving tree with 82 names on it from people in Lake Park-Audubon schools, Pelican Rapids schools and the Crisis Center.

"We have a very active, giving church," she said.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans' purpose as a faith-based membership organization is to strengthen Christian communities by helping members be wise with money and inspired to live generously.

"Your congregation's/organization's actions are a fine example of being wise with money and being inspired to offer generosity to those in need," Kathy Larson, relationship manager with Thrivent, said in a letter to those who had been awarded the money.

"It is our hope that receipt of this grant will bring additional awareness to inspire others to join in as services are extended beyond the bond of Lutheranism to help others."

"Without these kinds of dollars, this (program) wouldn't exist," Porter said of the Backpack Program.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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