It was fall 2019, one of those crisp, golden, mornings in northern Minnesota. The mournful wail of the loons echoed across Stocking Lake, as if they were saying “goodbye” before heading south for the winter. Glenn Anderson was about to pour his second cup of coffee when his phone rang, breaking the peaceful state of his surroundings.

“Glenn, this is Millie Wilson calling. I’m in need of some repairs on my porch roof and can’t find anyone available to do it. Would you consider helping me out?”

Not one to turn down such a request, Anderson contacted his friends Cliff Tweedale and Kristi York to give him a hand. As the three worked and talked an idea began to take shape. “Do you think the caring and outreach committee at church would consider sponsoring a ministry to take on projects like this?” Anderson asked.

The church is Calvary Lutheran in Park Rapids, a community of about 4,000 surrounded by a multitude of lakes and forests that provide numerous opportunities for year-round recreational activities. It’s also attractive for retirees who like the quiet solitude of lake living. Calvary’s membership includes many of these folks, who generously volunteer their time and talents to many church projects.

Given a nod of approval from the committee, Anderson organized a small group to develop guidelines for providing carpentry and other miscellaneous services, investigate liability protection, solicit donations for tools and other materials, and share advertising ideas. Last, but not least, a name was selected, and the Hard Hat Ministry became a reality in 2020.

The ministry is inspired by the congregation’s mission statement, which reads, in part: “Calvary Lutheran Church [is] at the Crossroads of God’s Grace and Service ….” The Hard Hat Ministry’s goal is to provide help to anyone in the community who has a special need in terms of upkeep and repair of their home and property. The work entails more than hammers and nails though—it also involves listening, providing insight, giving comfort and building relationships. The ministry’s motto is: “No job is too small, but some are too large.”

Project recipients are asked in advance if they are able and willing to provide any needed materials. If not, the Hard Hat Ministry team determines if funds are available to help. All labor is free and provided by volunteers from Calvary or other area congregations. The ministry, however, avoids competing with contractors or other business entities. If special licensed skills such as electrical are needed, those arrangements are made.

Over 20 project requests were received and completed in 2020, and there has been no let up since.

The work entails more than hammers and nails though—it also involves listening, providing insight, giving comfort and building relationships.

The biggest project to date was completed in July 2023 when the group teamed up with the Hubbard County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to revitalize a rundown Park Rapids home and get it ready for resale. HRA provided the materials and the Hard Hat Ministry the labor. Fifty members of Calvary provided over 500 hours of labor, and the house sold as soon as the work was completed.

Shannon Geisen, editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise, noted: “[This] could be a successful model for addressing a lack of affordable housing. By keeping repair costs down, rehabilitated homes can be sold at reasonable prices to first-time buyers.”

In addition to this collaborative venture, the Hard Had Ministry has developed working relationships with other social service and veterans’ agencies; Living at Home of the Park Rapids Area, which provides resources to enable seniors to remain in the home of their choice; and local churches.

Due to its continuing growth, the Hard Hat Ministry will be developing a board of directors in the coming year. With the passing of Anderson on Dec. 20, 2023, the ministry’s leadership is now led by Calvary member Brian Long, a recently retired construction engineer.

Anderson was, without a doubt, one of those special people whose DNA seemed to overflow with God’s love, and he showed members of Calvary and the community just how to put that love into service for those in need.

Judy Dulski
Judy Dulski is a member of Calvary Lutheran Church, Park Rapids, Minn.

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