Posts Tagged: first lutheran church

Live Generously: Carolyn Flaskerud

Carolyn FlaskerudCarolyn Flaskerud, director of the First Lutheran Church Food Pantry in Decorah, does not mince words. “It keeps me busy – happy and healthy,” the octogenarian says of her involvement in the expansion of the Food Pantry – it’s gone from supporting seven families per week to sometimes 250. She punctuates her statements with a smile – one that locals came to trust during her years as a customer service officer for what is now Bank of the West.

Carolyn has been boots on the ground for the Pantry since her retirement in 1998, when her involvement with Decorah Public Library’s Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and her service on First Lutheran Church committees revealed a desperate need for food support in the area. “Getting people in the door in dignified ways is hard for any community,” she explains. People who turn up for state-run food assistance are subject to income verification and other eligibility requirements that can delay the receipt of food.

“These are people who are hungry today, not just when they might be approved. It’s families with children – who don’t learn well at all when they’re hungry – and also elders, who sometimes choose between medicines and food – the ‘heating or eating season’ in winter.”

Carolyn’s specialty, it seems, is turning even the smallest leads into working opportunities for the pantry. In 2003, responding to unemployment in the aftermath of a fire that destroyed a turkey plant in Postville, Iowa, she pushed to get the volunteer-run charity, then operating out of a Sunday School storage closet, registered with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. This made the pantry eligible to receive high-volume weekly shipments of groceries that are over-produced or nearing expiration date, for example.

Today, the pantry also receives donations from area businesses: Walmart’s Feeding America program, Kwik Star, and Pizza Hut, for example. Many donations also reduce food waste by institutions, such as Decorah’s Luther College. There, college and community volunteers portion-pack leftover cafeteria foods – many of which feature locally grown ingredients – to be stocked at the pantry as frozen meals.

The pantry also collects nonperishable foods from the college dorms, when students are in transition, and has partnered with Luther foodservice provider, Sodexo, to use donated student dining dollars – discretionary money left on the students’ board plans – to purchase 2,700 pounds of rice, beans, pasta, and other staples. “That was the idea of a local student, Blaise Schaeffer, who grew up right across the street from the church,” Carolyn explains. “He told me to iron out the logistics of ordering through Sodexo, and he hit the dorms, rounding up $2,915.99 in student donations.” Carolyn, ever the precise funds manager, rattles off this figure like it’s as familiar as her favorite loafers.

To keep pace with community needs and reduce the stigma of accepting food help, the pantry is savvy with its cash donations, Carolyn says, funding new outreach and visibility whenever possible. 2015 marked the first year of a voucher program that allowed pantry shoppers to buy subsidized produce, fruit, meat, eggs, and honey from Oneota Community Farmers’ Market vendors in downtown Decorah. “Credit there should be given to [Decorah resident] Barb Dale and others,” Carolyn says. “We just made it work last year, and we do need special funding to run the program again.”

In all, the First Lutheran Food Pantry involves 70 or more dedicated volunteers who unload trucks, stock shelves, and assist families in maximizing their weekly product selections, from frozen venison to pureed baby foods. They accept donations of food, time, and financial support. “You can mail it, drop it off, or goodness knows, we’d come pick it up,” Carolyn says, tireless on the subject of her work. “We’ve certainly done that before, and God willing, we’ll keep at it.” – by Kristine Jepsen

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Live Generously: Larry Grimstad

Larry Grimstad“I’m just a banker with a passion for renewable energy,” Larry Grimstad says, in typical humble fashion.

In truth, the longtime Decorah resident is much more than that. He’s a highly respected community leader who has spent well more than a decade working to reduce his carbon footprint on the world and educate others on the importance of doing the same.

“We need renewable energy – wind, solar, and geothermal – and some of us have just got to take the initiative so others will come along,” he told the Des Moines Register in 2012 when asked about his efforts to promote environmental sustainability in Winneshiek County.

Larry, who served as president of Decorah Bank and Trust from 1978 to 2002, put those words into action three years ago when, through his company Decorah Solar Field, he partnered financially with Luther College to erect a $1.2 million array of 1,250 solar panels along Pole Line Road on the north edge of the college’s campus. The eye-catching array provides the bulk of the electricity used by Baker Village, a student-housing cluster that also uses clean energy (geothermal) for heating and cooling.

“I spent my career as a community banker so it’s a natural thing to figure out ways to help build good things for the community,” he says of investing in the array. “The more of that you do, the more you to want to do even more.”

Not surprisingly, Larry is just as generous with his time. He currently serves as board treasurer of four organizations – First Lutheran Church, Seed Savers Exchange, the Oneota Film Festival, and the Winneshiek Energy District – while also participating in events like the recent Decorah Energy Extravaganza that help educate the community about the myriad benefits of clean energy. The event showcased 10 solar-powered homes, including the one he built with his wife, Diane, in the early 2000s.

“It’s my responsibility to my grandchildren,” he replies when asked what drives his seemingly tireless efforts to leave this place in better shape than when he found it. “I have to do what is right for them and their generation.”

– by Sara Friedl-PutnamLarryGrimstadGraphic

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Live Generously: Karen Trewin

Karen TrewinOne of the first things you notice about Karen Trewin is her smile. She is, of course, generous with it. Next is her sense of humor – smart, quick, and catchy, just like Karen herself…especially when it comes to giving.

“It’s not always about spending hours volunteering or writing a big check. We can all find ways to make a difference that don’t take much time or cost a cent,” she says. “If we all did that every day – think of what we could accomplish! I just got goose bumps.”

It was this “we can do it” attitude (and a short email) that spawned the “Live Generously” theme for this issue of Inspire(d). We loved the idea of featuring folks in the region who are giving of their time, talent, goods, and money, and wanted to help encourage others to do the same.

“I like to view living generously as a habit to develop – much in the way we try to work a daily workout or eating healthy into our day. It takes practice, but once you start, it’s addicting!” she says. “A kind word, buying coffee for the person behind you in line, or being truly present for someone who needs some time are all examples of giving of ourselves.”

Live Generously is a term that is rooted in Karen’s day job as a financial associate with Decorah’s Thrivent Financial. Thrivent’s mission is to help people make wise plans for their money, but to also encourage them to find ways to make their communities better.

“When I can help people find greater purpose in having a sound financial plan, that’s a good day at work for me,” Karen says.

“Live Generously is a value rooted in stewardship,” she continues. “As a Christian, I have been taught that all we have is a gift from God, and I am responsible not only for being a good steward, but to share with others. My parents and grandparents were excellent models of this value when I was growing up; my family, friends, and community continue to inspire it in me. I volunteer for causes and organizations we care about, and my family has a plan for supporting them financially. We feel strongly about advocating for people who need a voice.”

Currently, Karen chairs the First Lutheran Church Worship and Music Committee – often directing things like the annual Sunday School Christmas program and helping with the Youth and Family program – is on the Decorah Youth Choirs board, and volunteers for Decorah Music Boosters.

“Throw your daily change into a jar and donate it to a charity at the end of the month,” she says of getting started with the live generously mindset. “Pick up an extra jar of peanut butter for the food pantry box at the grocery store. Ask your kids, if you gave them $10, how they would use it to help someone – then go do it together and ask them how it made them feel. Think about things you’re passionate about, and challenge yourself to find ways to help. You don’t have to set out to solve global problems on your first day. There is plenty of need in your own community, and everyone has the capacity to make a difference. Don’t wait for an invitation – just get out there!” – by Aryn Henning Nichols

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