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‘Friends’ raise $75K to fight hunger

Ottertail-The Friends of Friends Fighting Hunger in Otter Tail County raised more than $75,000 at its annual fundraiser, held Saturday at Thumper Pond in Ottertail, according to organizer Arne Gudmestad.

Ottertail-The Friends of Friends Fighting Hunger in Otter Tail County raised more than $75,000 at its annual fundraiser, held Saturday at Thumper Pond in Ottertail, according to organizer Arne Gudmestad.

More than 190 people attended the event, she said, and gave so generously to the Children’s Weekend Feeding backpack program, eight area food shelves and mobile food drops.

Money was raised through ticket sales and auction items that included hand-crafted items, such as stained glass pieces, pottery and quilted items, a bison and an owl chainsaw carvings, food and wine baskets; fishing packages, one for fly fishing and another for bass fishing, and so much more, said Gudmestad, who has served as the chairperson for the fundraiser for the past number of years.

“We also have many monetary donors,” she said. “Many people are part of the backpack sponsorships,  where they cover the cost of a year’s worth of weekend backpack food.”

Cost for such a sponsorship is A$144 for the year, Gudmestad said, and people have purchased anywhere from one to 10 sponsorships.

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Performing at the gala event, was Perham resident Mitch Groethe, his son, Micha and Audrey Swanson and Aasness Auctioneers

“It’s really been a successful part of the event,” she said. “It carries some meaning; people have a connection. It gives them a really warm feeling that they are helping a child.

The Friends Helping Friends Fighting Hunger was started eight years ago by a group of about 10 couples who believed they could impact hunger by simply inviting their friends to help. The first event raised about $32,000, Gudmestad said, and has grown each year since.

The time of year the Friends plan the fundraiser is intentional, following the holidays when food shelf supplies are depleted, but the need remains high.

Another motivation for the original group was thinking about the number of children who didn’t have food, which eventually inspired the backpack program.

In addition to raising money, the couples agreed eight years ago that the event should also raise awareness of the hunger issue within the county and to “build a community for the community,” meaning if people talked to their friends about the problem, together they could make a difference, the core belief behind the fundraiser.

Gudmestad is simply overwhelmed with the generosity of Perham residents.

“This community is so amazing with the way that they care and are so generous,” she said. “There are so many different fundraisers and I’m sure the businesses get hit so often for monetary donations, and yet, they just continue to give.”

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