Area churches lending a ‘Helping Hand’ for school, supplies Aug. 15-16

By: 
Jordan Gerard

It’s OK to have a helping hand sometimes, especially for kids going back to school and families in need. 

Two area churches aim to do just that with “Helping Hands.” This year’s two-day event is on Aug. 15, from noon to 7 p.m. at the Caledonia Methodist Church, 308 N. Kingston St. The second day is on Aug. 16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Caledonia Methodist Church started the event several years ago by gathering donations of school supplies, Terry Lauden told the Herald in an interview.

“As a teacher, I saw a lot of kids come back to school without the necessary clothing and supplies they needed,” she said.

Whether families are working and don’t make enough or can’t support the family very well, if there was a death or divorce, the goal has been to provide families with the support they need. 

In the first year, the congregation donated backpacks, notebooks, pencils, markers and other supplies. They contacted Houston County Human Services for their client list in order to connect with the families that needed it most. 

However, they realized there are also a lot of families who aren’t receiving help, but still need help. So they began putting up flyers at the food shelves and summer lunch programs in Houston County.

The supplies are available to any family in Houston County who need it. 

Lauden says they hope people do not take advantage of the drive if they truly don’t need it. 

“There’s people out there that need that support,” she added. “We have bed sheets, bedding, clothing, shoes, school supplies ... there’s about 2,000 items of clothing.

“Church members are great at cleaning out closets, picking things up at rummage sales,” she joked.

Recently, the church was the only funding source for the drive and because of the success of the event, the needs became greater than the small congregation could provide.

When their need became widely known, several organizations stepped up to help out including Spring Grove and Caledonia Lions clubs and the Caledonia Rotary Club. Miken donated 170 backpacks to the drive.

The congregation also received a lot of adult clothing and as a result, reached out to local care facilities whose residents needed new clothing too.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Spring Grove also pitched in to provide help in setting up tables and organizing items.

“That’s what God calls us to do. To take care of each other,” Lauden said. “I know how hard it is for kids to come to school and not have what they’re supposed to. If they know what they have to be successful, they will be successful.”

After the drive is over, any leftover items are donated again to Twice as Nice or Hope in Caledonia. Hope is a second-hand store that sells mostly household items.

Lauden said men’s clothes are usually donated to St. Clare Health Mission in La Crosse, which is a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization that brings healthcare to those who have the least access to it, according to their website. 

It doesn’t take much to mind the drive while it’s in progress. Setting it up, however, is another process entirely.

“All the setting up starts after the church service on Aug. 11,” Lauden said. “We need about 12 to 15 people to help on those days, and we could use that help on Friday to help box everything up.

“It’s just a whole group project through our church. The program has just grown and we’re blessed.”