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Dishing up dumplings

Carol Johnson has been making old-fashioned dumplings for years -- a recipe passed down in her family for generations. Next weekend she will be on hand to help for the church fundraiser. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Eksjo Lutheran Church in Lake Park will be where the old fashioned-dumpling dinner will be held to raise money for the elderly and members of the congregation who could use a good, homemade meal. Submitted Photo2 / 2

Ask around and one may find it quite difficult to stumble upon a place that serves up good, old-fashioned dumplings.

Not the small dumplings found in soups, but the large potato-laced balls served up as a side dish. They are a rare sight.

But for the first time, folks at Eksjo Lutheran Church in Lake Park will be serving them up as a fundraiser.

The event is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the church.

The idea stems from one of the members of the church, whose mother is Carol Johnson, a diner owner in Flom, Minn., who is well known for her old, traditional, family recipe that had been passed on for generations.

"She makes these dumpling dinners like twice a month, and people come from all around for them," said Melanie Hanson, who is coordinating the event.

According to Hanson, Johnson will be on hand to help other members of the church learn the art of the delectable dumpling as they cook up a dinner for 300.

"We'll serve them with ham, coleslaw, sweet corn the church grew this past summer and froze and ice cream," said Hanson.

The old-fashioned dumpling dinner will be a free-will donation, with proceeds going into a fairly new fund that has been set up at Eksjo called the "Angel Food Project."

"We started it about a year and a half ago where members of our church will cook up homemade meals like casseroles, ham and potatoes, and then we package them up and deliver them to some of our church's elderly or those who need it," said Hanson, who says they'll often help out people who have had medical issues or somebody who has been through a hardship of some kind.

She says only recently did the congregation come to realize how there were members of their own church that didn't have any food in their house or in some cases, the inability to fix their own meals.

"We have an elderly member of our congregation whose arthritis had gotten so bad she couldn't even open a can opener, and so she ended up hospitalized due to malnutrition because when you live in a rural community and you don't drive, it can be really tough."

Hanson says they have so many good cooks at their church willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work creating the homemade, nutritious meals, but they were only able to donate so much in terms of food. Now, the church is doing what they can to raise funds for the project.

"It's not like a meals on wheels," Hanson warned. "We're not anything people should depend on for their daily needs, but they're just meals that can be frozen and then taken out when they're really needed like if they're not feeling good and can't get to the senior center to eat or something like that."

Hanson says the Angel Food Project has become quite popular in the community, and has even been life-changing for some.

"We've had members say it's actually kept them in their homes longer because they've got this resource and hopefully it helps keep them healthier," said Hanson.