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By PAMELA THOMPSON email@example.com
Nov 20, 2022 Updated Nov 23, 2022
In this holiday season, Bethel Lutheran Church might provide an example for what unconditional generosity can accomplish. In a span of five weeks, church members collected $64,000 in cash, with an additional $6,000 in pledges, to raise a total of $70,000 earmarked specifically for the Hillcrest housing development.
The funds will go toward purchasing all new appliances for the 17 homes within Hillcrest, an environmentally efficient housing development located on North Highway 3 and operated by the Community Action Center (CAC). Many of the rental units are available for necessary emergency housing for Northfield families.
Scott Wopata, executive director of CAC, said the relationship with the Bethel congregation has been a wonderful collaboration.
“Bethel is a very engaged faith community,” said Wopata. “They take the lead on local issues.”
He said members of the Bethel congregation initially reached out to him two years ago looking for ways their funds could help solve Northfield’s affordable housing problem. At that time, Wopata said, Bethel wrote CAC a check for $25,000.
“Housing is a big heady term,” he said.
CAC offers a variety of options for people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity and offer solutions to prevent eviction, stabilize crises, and find long-term housing solutions to create stability for individuals, children, and families.
“We worked with Bethel to find a tangible approach to housing they could support,” he explained. “It’s a big deal their funding purchased new appliances for all the units. These families won’t have to use laundromats anymore.”
David Detert was one of the church members who advocated for focusing their support in one area, rather than scattering the donations around an array of projects.
“In the last year, Bethel Lutheran Church in Northfield realized that the wide range of social needs in our town, and society makes it difficult to accomplish much unless we focus on a specific problem,” said Detert. “The decision of the church was to emphasize housing needs in Northfield but to do it over a longer period of time, five years, to try to make a more significant impact.”
To ensure buy-in from the congregation, one Sunday in early October, Wopata offered Bethel members a tour of Hillcrest in between its 8:30 and 10:45 a.m. services. More than 60 people took the tour. Detert said between 40 and 50 Bethel households participated in financially supporting Hillcrest.
He said the church set a goal of $50,000 with the contribution period ending Nov. 1. To date, Bethel has raised more than $70,000. On Sunday, Nov. 13, a check was presented to the CAC at the 8:30 a.m. church service. Wopata was there to receive the donation.
“They [Bethel] just knocked it out of the park,” said Wopata. “This huge contribution gives CAC an enormous lift. We had a funding gap, but Bethel’s gift finished that off.”
Bethel Lutheran Church member Leone Larson wanted to set the record straight reminding readers that while most of the generous donations came from church members, some of the money raised for the appliances came from community members.
“As a member of Bethel I’m grateful that our church had the ability and willingness to contribute to such a great cause,” said Larson. “The Hillcrest homes are beautiful! I did want to point out however that Bethel received at least one generous donation from neighbors of mine who were happy to be a part of this even though not part of the Bethel community. Thanks to ALL in the Northfield community who may have donated for these appliances.”
Wopata said 10 families are now renting units at Hillcrest and that construction was proceeding on the last building, which will contain three more units. He said he hoped those units would be finished by February.
“Bethel is certainly a community-leading organization,” he said.
Photo: Homes for God’s Children Committee members include from left to right: Gene Broughton, Dave Detert who hands Scott Wopata, executive director of the Community Action Center a check, Gordon Olson, Linda Bliese, Rolf Kragseth, Bryce Narveson and Dottie Hammer. (Photo courtesy of Dayna Norvold)