By Cindy Stewart
Special to the Enterprise
It takes a village.
And sometimes that “village” is many miles and oceans away.
A few weeks ago, at Grace Lutheran Church in Hallock, the phrase “it takes a village” equated to raising $11,000 for Ukraine refugees.
On Sunday, May 1, the Cornerstone Food Pantry, with help from the Faith Journey Bible study, served a May Day meatball dinner to almost 250 people. The meal included approximately 500 meatballs and 125 pounds of potatoes.
“We couldn’t have done it without the help from this community, and all the communities around as well,” Cornerstone Food Pantry volunteer Heather Peterson said.
Since the Cornerstone Food Pantry’s role in Kittson County is feeding people, the goal of this fundraiser was not to gather funds to feed the people locally, but instead gather the means to feed others, and to give back to another community in need.
“The pantry was established to feed others, but to also spread Jesus’ love. We want to be the hands and feet of God, and serve others. This seemed like the right thing to do,” Peterson added.
Money raised from the dinner was sent to Poland, specifically to a church on the Polish/Ukraine border called KECh Hrubieszow. Serving as a volunteer at this church is Kim Backstrom, originally from Maddock, N.D., and a former student of Janet Swenson, Hallock. That local connection proved to be a great way for Kittson County to help Ukraine.
Backstrom has been completing mission trips to Poland over the years, going back and forth between North Dakota and Poland. While in college, she said she originally wanted to go on a mission trip to Ireland, but the trip was canceled. She ended up going to Poland instead and in 2013, she moved to Poland full time.
“That first trip to Poland changed my life. God just touched my heart to be here,” Backstrom said.
Her role at the church where she volunteers involves wearing many hats.
“I am the international contact person. I also end up translating sometimes. I assist with bringing and buying food for the refugees, buying clothing, paying for gas. I also play some basketball with the kids in town,” Backstrom said.
The money raised from the May Day meatballs was sent directly to the church in Poland and will be used mostly to help Ukrainians currently living in Poland. Backstrom said the money will help pay for rent, food, doctor visits and other costs associated with the church and work done with the refugees, and also pursue ways to find work for the refugees.
“We have helped around 500 Ukrainians. We didn’t do any bookwork or didn’t count people when they were coming because it was so chaotic, but we started when it quieted down,” she said.
The good news is there have been no new refugees in three weeks and more and more people are going back to Ukraine than coming. She said she heard a statistic that 33,000 a day are going back to Ukraine and 3,100 still coming to Poland daily.
“In addition to the immediate needs of the refugees, the money will be used to help establish work for the refugees, as well as assist as new people come every day to Poland,” Backstrom said.
And that is exactly what the small food pantry in a little town in rural Minnesota was hoping to accomplish — share food and God’s love with another village in need.
By Cindy Stewart