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A History of Salem WEST

Salem Lutheran Church has operated a multi-faceted community outreach program since 1993, which later became called Salem WEST. This program has met the many needs of the community in the form of clothing, furniture and household items, modest financial aid, and human support. Those who have benefitted included families in Deerwood, Crosby, Brainerd, Aitkin and surrounding areas.

The overwhelming response to support the giving ministry, as well as the needs to access the resources led the ministry to spill over into the church basement, offices, fellowship hall and several garages of members of Salem. As the ministry became better known in the community, and as the members of the Social Ministry team learned more about the resources available in our community, several grants were written that enable Salem WEST to receive large donations of mattresses and furniture. These blessings also created an interesting challenge as to where to store and distribute these items. The need for clean, safe, accessible storage for the items that are donated, until they can be distributed to those who need them, became a priority.

edit1.jpgIn December, 2002, members of Salem anonymously donated the money to purchase the abandoned and deteriorating Deerwood Laundromat so that the ministry of Salem would have a facility. The members of Salem and the community rallied to renovate and remodel the building. The Salem WEST building provided space to collect, clean, sort and store clothing and household goods for distribution to those in need. Since all support is provided without charge, the congregation of Salem Lutheran Church agreed to pay all expenses of the building, utilities, and maintenance. Having no mortgage on the building enabled the program to focus on serving the community.

The purchase of this building had other benefits also. At the time, the Deerwood Laundromat was vacant, deteriorating, and delinquent in taxes. Through this purchase, the former owners were able to sell the Laundromat and pay the back taxes. Members of the church then donated time, money, and their talents to renovating the building which transformed the building into something to be proud of.  In the process, the church invested heavily in the local community for building materials and special services. Andersen Corporation even donated new windows for the building.

Following the purchase of the Deerwood Laundromat, and the remodeling, the clothing and furniture and other household goods previously stored at Salem Lutheran Church were moved to the remodeled Laundromat. Almost immediately, the growing edit2.jpg
needs of our community began to surface. The county agencies have considerable needs and these public agencies have been faced with severe budget cuts at the very time the needs were increasing. The people of Salem and others in our Community have risen to the occasion through Salem WEST, to partner together to provide the services and resources to meet their needs. These partnerships have proven to be invaluable and effective.

To meet the increasing demands, Salem WEST had a large addition constructed in 2006. By the council, it was decided to pursue the possibility of expanding the facility. Even though the land at Salem WEST is limited, the determination was made to attempt to expand at the current site, as the council felt that is was important to keep this ministry in the city. Application was made to the city of Deerwood and with some modifications a plan was set. Before the fund raising efforts could begin, God spoke to the heart of a Salem family and the funds were made available to expand the Salem WEST building. During the summer of 2004 the members of Salem put a 28’ by 40’ addition for additional storage. This addition was completed in October of 2004 and has afforded us the luxury of accepting larger donations and to store a larger variety of items. It has also allowed the centralization of the entire inventory that had been stored all over the countryside!

As the ministry continues its journey, it continues to grow and expand its ability to serve. In 2008 land was purchased where a large storage building was constructed, along with remodeling a former horse barn. This additional space was in turn given to Salem WEST for use free of charge. A second donated truck was received and more community members were served, more volunteers serve the ministry, and more staff has been added.
 
On March 1, 2017 (Ash Wednesday) at 12:15 AM, the Salem WEST building burned to the ground.  The fire was the result of an act of arson aimed at the neighboring property and spread to Salem WEST.  Within hours after the fire, temporary headquarters were set up in the church fellowship hall.  25 years after beginning in the church’s fellowship hall, the ministry had come full circle and was once again in the church.  Salem WEST was only out of service for one day.  Thanks to loaned building and storage space, a WJJY Radio Stuff-a-Truck event, and the outpouring of love and support from our neighbors, friends and supporters, the inventory to continue helping those in need was back to near normal levels within a week. 
 
Through deliberation of the staff, the Governing Board, and key volunteers, it was determined that Salem WEST would not be rebuilt at its current site.  On May 22, 2017, Salem closed on the former Stenerson Lumber Yard between Deerwood and Crosby.  Again, through an incredible effort from staff, volunteers and community support, renovations were made and Salem WEST has a new home that is larger and will better serve the community into the future.  We will be forever grateful for the support and concern that we have received through this difficult and blessed time.

This ministry is on a journey led by God. This journey has already been an incredible one, reaching out into God’s world in ways that we could not imagine. The possibilities and potential seem limitless, because as we know, with God anything is possible.

Thank you for your role in making this ministry a valuable tool for those offering comfort and support to God’s people in need. Without you, it would not be possible.

Awards Salem WEST has been the appreciative receiver of:

  • 2019 Touchstone Energy Award
  • 2006 Minnesota Governors’ Council on Faith and Community Services Initiatives “Best Practices Award”
  • 2006 Initiatives Foundation “Outstanding Volunteers Award”
  • 2003 Lutheran Social Service “Servant of Christ Award”
  • 2002 “Holy Cow Look What We Have Done to Fight World Hunger Award”