Kathy Adams has devoted her life to helping others, and since April she’s been doing so as director of the Lakes Area Food Shelf in Pequot Lakes.
Adams, of Backus, is quick to say that those she’s served are the ones helping her.
“When you volunteer, you get more out of it than what you give,” she said.
She and her husband, Rick, have lived in their home on Ponto Lake for more than 20 years. After working for the Hazelden Foundation and Voyageur Outward Bound School, both in the Twin Cities, the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls, Crisis Line and Referral Service in Brainerd, as well as for the impoverished in Haiti, Adams said it was time to do something more local.
She’d volunteered at the food shelves in Pine River and Walker, and said she learned so much from Jodi Perry, coordinator at the Pine River Area Food Shelf. So when the position opened at the Pequot Lakes area food shelf, she applied.
“We’ve made amazing advancements,” Adams said, including ordering more fresh produce, which people have liked, and opening the food shelf to inside service again July 1.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers would deliver groceries to people’s cars. That’s still an option, but people can now freely walk through the food shelf again and pick their own items.
“We surveyed our friends and neighbors who use the food shelf. We wanted to know who they are and their stories,” Adams said.
Those stories are incredible, and the people telling them are our neighbors, she said.
"It’s important for me, for our board, to be seen as part of our neighbors’ community. We welcome them with open arms. Each of us is one major life event away from needing people."
— Kathy Adams, Lakes Area Food Shelf director
Adams became emotional when she shared that she and Rick survived a plane crash in 2003 that left them out of commission for a long time. Friends helped provide groceries and mowed their lawn among other chores.
“So I know what it’s like to need help but be a little hesitant asking for help and worried people will judge you when you ask for help,” she said.
“It’s important for me, for our board, to be seen as part of our neighbors’ community. We welcome them with open arms. Each of us is one major life event away from needing people,” Adams said, whether that event be a lost job, a major health issue or something else.
She considers the food shelf a community resource.
“It is just a gift and a blessing to be part of a resource for our friends and neighbors,” she said, noting people visit the food shelf for food, but also for friendship. Parents bring their kids to show them the goodness and kindness they experience at the food shelf.
"So I know what it’s like to need help but be a little hesitant asking for help and worried people will judge you when you ask for help."
— Kathy Adams, Lakes Area Food Shelf director
Adams grew up in North Dakota and met her husband while both were attending Mary College near Bismarck. After marrying, they moved to the Twin Cities and both attended the University of Minnesota.
She eventually earned a degree in communications from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, where she was enrolled in the first night and weekend program for women who worked and went to school. Besides working full time, the couple was also raising their two children.
Adams traveled the country through her job with the Hazelden Foundation for 13 years before leaving to work for two years for Voyageur Outward Bound School, where she helped people in need find courage and strength.
Then she and Rick decided to move north. Both their families had cabins on Webb Lake near Hackensack.
“We’d work hard during the week and race to the cabins on weekends,” Adams said. “One day we said, ‘What if we try to reverse this?’”
After moving north, Adams worked for six years for the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls, again in development, and then as director of the Crisis Line in Brainerd for a year.
The couple also turned a passion for mission work in Haiti into their own nonprofit foundation called The Faith Project that they started in 2011 to help build sustainable communities there in the name of Christ. Through their work, they also helped put a Haitian man through medical school.
Adams gets emotional talking about their work in Haiti and the ultimate decision to step back and end their nonprofit and its work at the end of this year. It wasn’t an easy decision.
“We are both Christians,” she said of herself and Rick. “We both just love the Lord and serving the Lord. We pray and let Him direct where he wants to plant us.”
She said her own family has experienced a great deal of loss in the last six years, and helping others helps her cope.
“Sometimes you need to sink your teeth into something that is meaningful and has a profound impact on people,” she said “It helps you too.”
The food shelf has a new board chair in Peter Mann. The board will begin a strategic plan next year, looking at barriers that prevent people from using the food shelf, other resources the area offers and how to address transportation issues, which many people cite as a barrier.
“It’s a very exciting time for the food shelf,” Adams said. “We want people to feel welcome because they are very welcome. It’s a gift to get to know our friends and neighbors.”
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.