By: Christa Meland
For the third year in a row, churches in the North Star District packed and donated toy- and snack-filled shoeboxes for children on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Cass Lake, where needs are great.
As of last week, All Feathers Spiritual & Community Center—an ecumenical ministry that serves members of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and a Minnesota Conference Advance Special—had received 940 shoeboxes to distribute to children on Christmas Eve. After repackaging for consistency across shoeboxes, that will result in close to 850. That’s up from 475 in 2014 and 325 in 2013.
The conference’s Native American Ministry Action Team each year encourages northern Minnesota churches to participate in the shoebox ministry and provides instructions for the shoeboxes. Each shoebox is different, but most include a toy and/or book, winter clothing (socks, hats, gloves, etc.), toothpaste and a toothbrush, and candy or snacks.
There were several designated drop-off locations in northern Minnesota where churches were invited to bring their shoeboxes. One drop-off location in Alexandria received so many shoeboxes from local churches—roughly 500—that Alexandria United Methodist Church volunteers rented a U-Haul truck to deliver them to Cass Lake.
Jim Allen, a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and All Feathers’ spiritual director, said the shoeboxes are a blessing to many, particularly because Cass Lake has a significant amount of poverty and a high unemployment rate.
“There is a great need for this,” he said. “Money’s short. Not everybody’s working in the area here. At Christmastime, to get a gift is really meeting a need.”
Some of the shoeboxes packed by United Methodist churches will be distributed at the All Feathers Christmas Eve worship service, and others will be given to other local organizations to distribute to parents whose children might otherwise go without a Christmas gift—including the men’s and women’s halfway houses and outpatient programs, a food shelf and soup kitchen, a shelter for abused women, and a home health services provider.
Each shoebox contains a note about how it was assembled thanks to the generosity of Minnesota United Methodists.
“I think [recipients] can see God at work in the generosity that comes from the United Methodist Church,” Allen said.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church