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Working together to fight hunger (w/ video)

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Penny Stender, who is a member of Calvary Lutheran Church and works for Bremer Bank, straightens cans of pasta that were bagged up Sunday morning for Backpack Attack. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press)2 / 3
Volunteers work together to box up food supplies for United Way's Backpack Attack program Sunday. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 3

An attack took place in the parking lot of Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria Sunday morning — an attack against hunger.

In assembly line fashion, dozens of volunteers filled bags with non-perishable food — cereal, fruit roll-ups, instant oatmeal, canned peaches, mini beef ravioli, pudding, milk, juice and more.

Volunteers from the church, Bremer Bank and Alexandria School District 206 all worked together for Backpack Attack, a community impact program of the United Way of Douglas and Pope County.

The program, with support from school districts, provides bags of supplemental food to students in need, helping them stave off hunger on the weekends. The program is confidential and voluntary for those receiving the food bags.

Local United Way leaders were excited about the new partnership — which resulted in Sunday's packaging ot 1,300 bags of food for hungry students.

"Bremer and Calvary have always been amazing partners to United Way but to see them team up like this is so unique," said Kris Chisholm, fundraiser and event coordinator for the local United Way. "We believe that this could be an amazing launching pad to really make impactful change in our communities."

The partnership began when Calvary invited Bremer Bank to match its donation of $5,000 to Backpack Attack. The bank accepted the challenge.

Calvary is also working to raise awareness on the hunger needs in the community, teaching people how many children in the Alexandria area truly need the food. It costs about $5 per bag to pack the non-perishable food items.

"We're hoping that this unique church/business partnership could inspire others in the community to similarly sponsor packing events through United Way," said Katie Dahl, Calvary's coordinator of Congregational Ministries to Adults and Families.

The bags will be distributed across Head Start and School District 206.

Another packing event for an additional 750 bags will take place in Osakis on Sept. 19. Also, school districts in Brandon-Evansville and Minnewaska receive monthly pre-packed deliveries.

Added all together, the United Way, with support from all of its partners, will distribute more than 500 backpacks full of food across Douglas and Pope counties on a weekly basis so students won't have to be hungry on the weekends.

Collectively, more than 11,000 backpacks will be packed and distributed during the 2017-2018 school year, Chisholm said.

For more information, contact the United Way at at 320-834-7800 or go to the website,

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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