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Alexandria's United Methodist Church's Wood Fired Pizza Oven adds updates for this summer season

"The profits raised will be collected throughout the Summer and then divided amongst the nonprofits equally at the end," said Jeremy Vinar, Community Woodfire Pizza Oven's engagement coordinator.

Placing pizza in oven
John Heydt places a pizza inside the Alexandria Community Wood Fired Oven on the grounds at the United Methodist Church in Alexandria on May 17, 2023.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA โ€” Starting on June 7 and continuing every Wednesday through Aug. 30, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at 2210 6th Ave East, wood-fired pizzas will be served to members of the community to raise money for non-profits and bring the community closer together.

United Methodists Church has been holding community get-togethers with its Wood-Fired Pizza Oven since 2017. This year, Jeremy Vinar was named engagement coordinator and he is planning on making the Wednesday night pizza events even bigger.

Vinar was put into this role thanks to a $15,000 "Investing in Congregations Grant," made available through the Minnesota United Methodist Church and funded through Congregational Development. According to Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the grants are for "churches that demonstrate a potential, capacity, and commitment to reach new people, grow in love of God and neighbor, and heal a broken world."

Pizza baking in oven
A pizza bakes next to wood coals inside the oven at the Alexandria Community Wood Fired Oven on the grounds at the United Methodist Church in Alexandria on May 17, 2023. Pizzas take less than 2 minutes to bake inside the 800-degree oven.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

"My hope and goal is to have something every week that appeals to everyone. Young and old alike, the intent is to have either entertainment, games, or some combination that people of any ability can partake in and enjoy," Vinar said in an email. "I think back to my youth when we would barricade the ends of the street and have a block party, where strangers became neighbors and neighbors became friends. That's the presence we hope to cultivate each week."

Vinar has helped prepare entertainment and/or games to be feature each week.

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"Without giving too much away quite yet, we have some fantastic local performers lined up, as well as a bunch of fun-filled games for our more active patrons or those with kids in tow," Vinar said

A schedule of this summer's events can be found on the pizza ovens Facebook page .

Cutting pizza
John Heydt cuts a pizza he just baked at the Alexandria Community Wood Fired Oven on May 17, 2023.
Lowell Anderson / Alexandria Echo Press

The pizza events raise money for local non-profits that sponsor the Wednesday night events. At the end of the summer, the collected money will be divided equally among the non-profits.

Vinar said that last year, the pizza oven raised enough to give each of the 30 nonprofits $750 each.

VinarJeremy21.jpg
Jeremy Vinar

"It is truly a 'love thy neighbor' ministry and is rooted in supporting good that is already happening in our community... I'm humbled to be in the presence of so many great people willing to show their love for our area through this work," said Vinar. "The pizza oven exists as a labor of love, and those dedicated members of the church preparing and making your delicious wood-fired pizzas each week do so voluntarily to help foster a more tightly knit community. I may be the hired hand, but it's their passion to serve the community and support these nonprofits that makes this all possible."

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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