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Small Minn. Church Meal Program Back In Business

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(credit: Jupiter Images)

(credit: Jupiter Images)

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EMILY, Minn. (AP) – A small church that had to halt its community meal program is serving dinners again after a massive fundraising effort.

The Emily Wesleyan Church Care ‘N’ Share program served 145 meals when it resumed Wednesday, the Brainerd Dispatch reported.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Gordy Huff told the newspaper.

The state Health Department shut the program down last May because the kitchen didn’t meet the state’s commercial kitchen code. The cost to bring it up to code was estimated then at $170,000 — daunting for a church with a Sunday attendance of less than 100.

But that didn’t stop church members from trying. Donations of money, time and merchandise flowed in from individuals, local groups and companies, pushing the project to completion in just four months.

The new kitchen is hardly recognizable as the same one that served 175 meals a week just a year ago. The renovations included nearly 900 square feet of new space and new flooring. FarrellGas provided new gas hook-ups and the labor to install new lines. Stainless steel appliances and a walk-in refrigerator and freezer were donated by the church’s district headquarters in Charles City, Iowa.

“They’ve been behind us all the way through,” Huff said.

Care ‘N’ Share head chef Paul Flemming said the renovations passed the final health code inspection with no problems.

“I think (the health inspector) was really surprised at what we were able to do,” Flemming said. “I don’t know anybody that has a bigger kitchen around here. Most restaurants don’t have the space we have.”

The final cost was $158,000. The church still needs to raise $6,500 to cover the costs but Huff said the program hopes to cover it with fundraisers and donations.

“It’s a bit of a setback,” Huff said. “But we want to pay it off as quickly as possible so donations can go towards purchasing food.”

Baked chicken and mashed potatoes were featured menu ithe first night back.

“Next week is going to be even bigger as the word gets out,” Huff said. “This is a start.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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