Two Pequot Lakes churches have joined forces to help the Lakes Area Food Shelf, with an additional goal of building relationships among each church’s congregation.

Our Savior’s Lutheran and Grace United Methodist churches are in a challenge to raise the most money and food donations for the local food shelf. The church that raises the greatest amount will be invited to an ice cream social at the other church when it’s warm enough to gather outside.

"It's something our two churches can do together."

— Pastor Stephan Blenkush.

“It’s something our two churches can do together,” said Pastor Stephan Blenkush, of Our Savior’s, adding he hopes this is a first step for engaging other churches to all work together across denominations.

Pastor Jen Matthees, of Grace United Methodist agreed: “I am always looking for ways to engage people in looking beyond our doors,” she said in an email, noting she approached Blenkush because she knew he would get on board.

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“How neat would it be for more churches to get involved? Good natured ribbing with neighbors and friends, comradery among clergy, brackets and trophies … oh my!” she said.

“I am excited too for the ice cream social to celebrate with both churches as a way to build more connections. I know that we are both Pequot Lakes churches, but our members live all around the lakes area, so it is another way to bind us closer to Pequot Lakes,” Matthees said.

Blenkush said when he interviewed at Our Savior’s a couple of years ago, there was a realization that the congregation was not engaged in the larger community and it wanted to be.

Matthees reached out to help the food shelf, which is in a building just south of her church at the same turn off Patriot Avenue, saying its location may be a bit hidden and unknown where it’s tucked off the main road.

"I am excited too for the ice cream social to celebrate with both churches as a way to build more connections."

— Pastor Jen Matthees.

“It does offer anonymity for some that may hesitate to seek help, but it can also get overlooked by a community that believes that we don't have folks that have unmet needs,” she said.

“I see it as a win for the community at its core,” Matthees said of the two churches working together. “I think that it is always good to get the outreach work of the church promoted any way that we can. I think a challenge like this is neat for both congregations - a new way to do March food drives, and of course we hope the big winner is (the food shelf).”

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at