Area churches are teaming up with Barnes County Social Services again this year to offer Thanksgiving food baskets to the needy.
Katie Pommerer, human service aide for Barnes County Social Services, said four churches are involved in the combined effort: Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, Faith Lutheran Church and Grace Free Lutheran Church.
Pommerer said each church involved offers to handle a certain amount of baskets and Barnes County Social Services picks up the rest.
This year, Social Services has 200 requests, and after the churches have done what they’ve offered, Social Services has 22 baskets left to fill.
Each entity raises money to pay for the food in the baskets and chooses what items to add.
A typical basket features a turkey with all the Thanksgiving trimmings such as stuffing, potatoes and yams along with a pie and whipped cream. Baskets also usually include vegetables and fresh fruit.
John Beil, who is on the committee for Trinity Lutheran Church, said their congregation has given out apples and squash picked from retired pastor Dan Faust’s farm near Valley City in the past.
Those eligible for the baskets are people eligible through assistance through Barnes County. Baskets are distributed to families in Valley City and outlying towns including Dazey, Oriska, Sanborn and Rogers.
Although baskets typically feature traditional Thanksgiving food, Julia Anderson, who is on the committee for Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, said they’ve been recently discussing changing the meal up a bit.
“We don’t know if people out there want the traditional turkey meal or if they want hamburger and Hamburger Helper instead,” Anderson said, adding that it might be more beneficial to add items that can provide more than one meal.
If families don’t have the utensils to make the turkey or if they have small children who can’t eat the turkey, Our Savior’s would be willing to accommodate by adding food items that might be easier to prepare.
“We want to know what people want and what’s going to be more helpful to people who need the baskets,” Anderson said, adding that families can talk to their social worker if they’d like to see something else in the baskets.
Pommerer said Social Services plans to send out a letter in the spring, asking families if they’d be open to other options. If the response is good, that’s definitely something they can accommodate in future years.
Participating entities have various ways of raising money to pay for the baskets.
Trinity Lutheran Church asks congregation members to contribute five items: stuffing, green beans, corn, cranberries and sweet potatoes. The rest of the items are provided by monetary and food donations.
Faith Lutheran Church raises money to pay for the baskets, which Children and Youth Minister Nikki Hanson said cost about $45 each.
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church collects food for the food pantry every month, and the November donations are used in the Thanksgiving baskets instead of going to the food pantry.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans also meets donations to a certain amount.
“I think people seem very grateful when they come to get their baskets,” Anderson said. “It really does help people out.”
“The holidays are always a taxing time with money, and I think it’s a good time to help them out in the way we can,” she added.
Beil, who recently worked with Trinity Lutheran Church’s produce giveaway, said “I think the need is there, and that’s the biggest thing.”
All churches assemble the baskets at their church, usually involving a committee and confirmation students. Baskets will be distributed at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and Trinity Lutheran Church Nov. 18. Trinity Lutheran Church will have a pancake feed in support of the food baskets that morning. Baskets will be distributed at Faith Lutheran Church on Nov. 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Grace Free Lutheran Church will deliver their baskets Nov. 14. Barnes County Social Services will distribute their baskets at their office Nov. 16.
“I just hope everyone who needs a basket is able to get one,” Hanson said.
If baskets cannot be picked up during the specified time, entities work with families to distribute them. Hanson said Faith Lutheran Church arranges to have someone drop off the baskets.
“If somebody happens not to pick up the basket, (Our Savior’s Lutheran Church) tries to contact them, and if something happened where we couldn’t get ahold of them, the baskets are given to food pantry,” Anderson said.
Pommerer said she’d like to thank participating churches and donators, and said Barnes County Social Services is still taking monetary donations to meet the needs of food baskets they still have to fill. They can be dropped off at the office, and Pommerer can be reached at (701) 845-6642.
Barnes County Social Services also offers help during the Christmas holiday season by offering eligible families food baskets given by the Barnes County Food Pantry.