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Tom Cummings leads a group of men in Bible study during morning breakfast at The Refuge in Detroit Lakes. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)
Tom Cummings leads a group of men in Bible study during morning breakfast at The Refuge in Detroit Lakes. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

The Refuge in Detroit Lakes offers fellowship and a warm meal

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news Perham, 56573

Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

DETROIT LAKES -- In the Bible, Jesus Christ healed the sick and lame, and fed the masses, as well as preached his Gospel.

While not claiming miracles, The Refuge in Detroit Lakes is feeding those who come through its doors and trying to help in other ways.

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It's a project several years in the making and ramped up after The Refuge moved into its current home on East Eighth Street in Detroit Lakes in the former Anishinaabe Center.

The Refuge itself started over three years ago on North Washington Avenue in the old Lakes TV Clinic store.

Started by Mel and Shirley Manning, along with the help of others, the mission is simple: create a refuge for those that are spiritually needy. Mel Manning serves as president of The Refuge.

"We've always wanted to do things like this to help people," Manning said. He said that he and his wife have worked in the ministry for a while and see the need.

He said it was a simple vision that has turned into reality.

The need to feed people is great in Detroit Lakes, Manning said. He said that a lot of people live in poverty -- over 12 percent according to the Census Bureau.

The poor economy isn't helping matters, as Manning said that those who are working have to stretch out their dollars even more.

To help those in need, The Refuge offers dinner from Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.

"We have room for a lot more people to come in here," Manning said.

Realistically, the goal is to feed 500 people per week, Manning said.

Breakfast is offered Monday through Friday starting at 7:30 a.m.

Jim Mercer, who is busy cooking up breakfast during the winter months, said that The Refuge is a great place.

"I love it," he said. "It's a nice men's group with the Bible study."

A meal is always available, though, during the day if someone needs one.

"We don't have them cooked up at the time, but we will make them a meal," Manning said.

Besides meals, The Refuge offers Bible Study, a women's group, prayer and support groups. There is also a kids group for those aged 5-12 after school during the school year.

On Friday nights, it offers a safe environment for teens and twenties with music, games, burgers, pizza and fries. Doors open at 7 p.m., with music starting at 8 p.m.

Manning said that he knows it can be hard for people to come in and get help.

"We do everything we can (to make it comfortable)," Manning said.

He said that not everyone who comes in needs a meal, but they come for support and fellowship.

A lot of the help comes from volunteers.

"We have a lot of people willing to do that," Manning said.

Manning said that the religious part of The Refuge isn't shoved down people's throats, but if people want to know more, that knowledge is available.

"It's fun to see more and more people starting to show up here," Mercer said.

A future goal of The Refuge is to establish a benevolence fund. Manning said a homeless shelter, sooner rather than later, is one of his visions for The Refuge.

As of now, The Refuge can direct people to the right agencies or groups to get help, such as housing, counseling, job seeking help or getting people over to Moorhead.

"We work with the local people as much as we can," Manning said.

But Manning said there are some things The Refuge can't do, such as allow people to sleep on site or put people up in a motel.

"Sometimes it's a heartbreaking situation," he said. "There is nothing we can do."

Manning said there is a list of what The Refuge can and cannot do for people, hanging on the wall.

He said the area needs a place for the homeless to stay for a little bit until they can get their feet on the ground.

"Right now, there is nothing here," Manning said.

The growth of The Refuge has been exceptional so far, he said. The back of the property is landscaped, with a gazebo now.

"We had to do a lot of work on the building," Manning said.

Treasurer Allen Schoenberger said that the annual budget is around $60,000. Local groups help, such as the United Way and churches.

Schoenberger's son, Bryan, owner of Pine Creek Builders, has also helped out by donating $2,400 out of proceeds from his business to The Refuge. He donates a portion of the sale of his homes.

Also helping raise money is the Solid Grounds coffee shop in the front of the building. The shop offers lunch and is open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Manning said a big portion of the budget comes from private parties willing to help.

The Refuge is located 921 Eighth Street SE. It can be reached at 847-1982 or on the Web at www.therefugeofdl.org.

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