Events to support the Compassion House

When the staff and volunteers at The Refuge in Detroit Lakes were looking at potential musical acts for the 2013 edition of Hope Fest, the Christian music and outreach festival that they kicked off last June, John Schlitt was at the top of the list.

Compassion House
Workers are getting the walls up inside the Compassion House to ready it for the men that will be staying there in the future. There will be three open houses at the Compassion House the week of Nov. 10-18 for people to get a look inside. Submitted Photos

When the staff and volunteers at The Refuge in Detroit Lakes were looking at potential musical acts for the 2013 edition of Hope Fest, the Christian music and outreach festival that they kicked off last June, John Schlitt was at the top of the list.

The former lead singer of Christian rock band Petra -- and Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee -- is widely regarded as one of the genre's premier musicians.

When they began making inquiries about his availability next summer, however, they learned that he would be touring in Minnesota this fall.

"We found out he was coming to St. Cloud on Nov. 10, and would also come here (to Detroit Lakes) for a concert on Nov. 9 if we wanted him to," said Refuge director Randy Kohler.

"So we seized the moment of opportunity," he added.


Schlitt will be the featured performer at a special "Faith and Freedom Concert" inside Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

"It's a fundraiser, but more than that, it's an opportunity to minister to our community -- to show the importance of our faith and our freedom," Kohler said, explaining the concert's name.

Besides Schlitt, the concert will also feature the Christian band Pure as his opening act.

Advance tickets are now on sale at a cost of $8 for adults, $5 for students (adult admission will be $10 per ticket at the door). They are available at The Refuge, Helping Hand Thrift Store, or the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office.

Proceeds will benefit not only The Refuge Christian Outreach Center, but also its project to complete a new 59-bed homeless shelter for men, Compassion House, inside an existing building just a couple of doors down from The Refuge.

Completion of the Compassion House project has been delayed because, as Kohler put it, "We've used up all the available funds for this year."

The project will require roughly $150,000 to complete -- "but even $100,000 would be enough to bring us to the place of having it ready (for occupancy)," he added.

That $100,000 would include about $50,000 for a new heating, cooling and air exchange system and $14,000 for a security system. Once those are installed, Kohler said, "Then we can dry wall it, tape it, mud it and paint it -- but those two things have to be put in first."


Once the security and HVAC systems have been installed, the cost of dry wall, tape, mud, paint and labor would be about $10,000.

Another $11,000 would need to be raised to install the plumbing and other fixtures, and the remainder of the $100,000 would be needed for labor.

After that, the next phase would be to install a commercial kitchen and coolers, which would cost roughly $50,000.

But if they could raise that $100,000 for the air and security systems, "We could feed the men at the Refuge until we could raise the money to complete the kitchen and coolers."

As they did last year, the Refuge will also be selling Christmas wreaths, starting in mid-November, with all proceeds to benefit the Compassion House. The wreaths will cost $25 each.

One other budding source of income for this and other Refuge projects is the new Helping Hand Thrift Store, which opened Jan. 31 inside the former Ben Franklin building on Washington Avenue.

Operated by Refuge staff and volunteers, the new thrift store has been "going well," Kohler said.

"Any time you can start a new business and be in the black (financially) from the get go, God's definitely a part of it," he added.


Business has been pretty consistent, but "we're always looking for more valued customers, and donations," Kohler said.

"We're just sustaining -- we need to bring the store to the level where it starts helping us to meet our needs" for funding the Refuge's various programs, like the Compassion House, he continued.

"We've been good stewards of what God's given us, but we are now turning to our community to partner up with us and help meet the needs of the hungry, the homeless, and others (who come to the Refuge for help)," Kohler said.

Besides money, donations of clothing, beds and furniture at the thrift store are also a constant need.

When it comes to furniture and bed donations, Kohler said, "It goes out as fast as we get it in."

"Between The Refuge and Compassion House, there's also a real need for volunteers," he added. "We could really use a volunteer coordinator too."

To help raise awareness and build support for the project, The Refuge will also be hosting three open houses at the Compassion House during the week of Nov. 10-18, which is designated as National Hungry & Homeless Awareness Week.

The first will be geared toward local churches and the ministerial community, and is set for Tuesday, Nov. 13. A similar event, geared toward local businesses, will be held on Thursday, Nov. 15, while the third, which is intended for the general public, will take place on Sunday, Nov. 18. All three events will run from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Kohler said.


For more information about The Refuge's current projects and programs, please call 218-847-1982 or visit the website, .

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

The Refuge will also be selling Christmas wreaths to raise money for the project.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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