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Food shelf surpasses March campaign goal

The 2014 March FoodShare Campaign has wrapped up, and once again the Perham Community Food Shelf has reached its fundraising goal. Food shelf leaders were hoping to garner $30,000 worth of cash and food items during this year's campaign, and afte...

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Friends of Friends Fighting Hunger in Otter Tail County Chairperson, Arne Gudmestad, gives a donation check to Perham Community Food Shelf Director John Leikness. Leikness said the $6,650 donation would allow the food shelf to buy three times that amount in food, thanks to its 3-to-1 buying relationship with the North Country Food Bank. The food shelf also purchases some food from local grocers, who offer steep discounts for the cause. Marie Johnson/FOCUS

The 2014 March FoodShare Campaign has wrapped up, and once again the Perham Community Food Shelf has reached its fundraising goal.

Food shelf leaders were hoping to garner $30,000 worth of cash and food items during this year’s campaign, and after some last-minute contributions over the weekend, that number was exceeded.

According to John Leikness, the food shelf’s director, the total campaign tally came to $34,883 combined pounds of food and dollars.

“Incredible response from the community,” summed up Leikness.

Those donations will be put to good use, to meet a growing need. Leikness said this past January and February were the food shelf’s busiest ever, at least partly due to the unusually cold weather and high costs of gas and heating fuel, which have taken a toll on people’s budgets.

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Thanks to matching donations by outside organizations, along with the food shelf’s three-to-one buying power (a $1 donation will buy $3 worth of food for the food shelf through the North Country Food Bank), that $34,883 will go a long way.

Leikness said he’s grateful for the generosity of the Perham community and surrounding area, where individuals, groups and businesses aren’t shy about contributing to the cause.

On Friday, for example, he was accepting a donation check from Arne Gudmestad, chairperson of Friends of Friends Fighting Hunger in Otter Tail County.

Friends of Friends gave $6,650 to the Perham food shelf during this year’s March campaign – the largest it’s ever given.

Money is raised at the group’s annual dinner and auction fundraiser, held every January at Thumper Pond in Ottertail. The fundraiser reliably generates 10s of thousands of dollars every year. That money is then divvied up and distributed to the seven food shelves in Otter Tail County, the Wadena Food Shelf and other programs that fight hunger in the local area.

This year, the Friends of Friends fundraiser raised more than $70,000.

“Every year, it amazes me how successful it is,” Gudmestad said. “We have such a caring and attentive community. We appreciate that.”

Friends of Friends works with United Way of Otter Tail County, which serves as its fiscal host. This partnership allows the group to give 100 percent of its proceeds to its chosen causes.

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The group is already planning its fundraiser for next year, its seventh annual event, to be held Jan. 24, 2015.

A writer, editor and mom of four (two kids, two dogs), Marie's been in the newspaper business for over 20 years. She started at the Detroit Lakes Tribune in 2017 after working just down the road at the Perham Focus for several years. Before that, she was at the Herald-Review in Grand Rapids, Minn.
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