Christmas is a time of giving and receiving.
It's only August but that giving and receiving spirit has been kindled by the women of First Lutheran Church of Blooming Prairie.
Some busy First Lutheran church women and some other volunteers met at the church on a recent Monday morning to wrap shoe boxes that would contain Christmas gifts for needy people.
Volunteers were mainly women of the church, however Amy Staloch brought her two children, Claire and Gabe as eager wrappers.
The wrapped gifts are donated to the Marie Sandvik Center of Minneapolis.
First Lutheran's church women have supported this project the last 20 years, says Judy Lee, current chair of the ambitious project.
The Marie Sandvik Center, Inc. is a Religious Society (Christian Church) in the state of Minnesota.
The Marie Sandvik Center exists to meet the spiritual and physical needs of anyone in the Twin Cities metro area. Persons who attend a chapel service are eligible to receive food, clothing, and hygiene items after the meeting.
The Sandvik Center mission is supported solely by private donations from individuals, and other churches or entities only, not the government. "This way, sharing God’s message of love and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ can be our primary focus," said a Sandvik Center volunteer.
Lee said 125 shoe boxes with lids were wrapped with Christmas paper and the contents placed within.
Lee says items include hats, mittens, socks, toiletries and gifts for children.
The filled shoe boxes contain items for boys, men, women, girls, teens and infants.
Funds for the First Lutheran project, which benefits the Sandvik Center, come from a Sunday coffee at First Lutheran Church and from a bake sale sponsored by church women. An action grant from Thrivent Financial was also received. Donations are always welcome, Lee says.
Most of the items are donated but new items were purchased on a shopping spree led by Joan Mast and Vikki Wacek, Lee related.
First Lutheran Church members Vivian and Harold Ulrich will again transport the gifts to the Marie Sandvik Center at 1112 East Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis.
The Marie Sandvik Center was started in 1940 by Marie Sandvik, a determined Norwegian immigrant. Sandvik rented a bankrupt bar on Washington Avenue, cleaned it and erected a sign proclaiming "Minneapolis Revival Mission."
The mission was then moved to Nicollet Island and continued to minister to the "skid row" population. Doris Nye of Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls, joined Sandvik in 1944 and served as director of the mission until her death in April of 2005.
Marie Sandvik died in 1992 and her work was carried on by Doris Nye until her death, and the work now continues under the leadership of director, Kristen Hink, assistant director, Laurie Whitmore and a dedicated staff of paid workers and volunteers.
The Marie Sandvik Center added a women's shelter, built a gymnasium, remodeled a new chapel and classrooms to accommodate their rising numbers.