The History of Salem Outreach

Salem’s Social Ministry faced a pressing challenge: how to meet the growing demand for services. What began as a modest outreach program had blossomed into something much larger. The Social Ministry Governing Board and various committees grappled with this question, seeking sustainable solutions.

To ensure the ministry’s longevity, several key strategies were put in place:

  1. Diverse Funding Sources: The congregation rallied behind the cause, providing unwavering support. Additionally, foundation grantsfundraisers, and donations poured in. These financial injections bolstered the ministry’s operations.
  2. Self-Sustainability: Recognizing the need to stand on its own feet, the ministry aimed for self-sufficiency. A steady source of income became paramount. This income would not only sustain existing services but also allow for expansion.

In this delicate balance between compassion and practicality, Salem’s Social Ministry thrived. By weaving together community support, financial backing, and a clear vision, they ensured that their mission would endure. 


In 1993, Salem Lutheran established Salem’s Social Ministry following a congregational meeting. Recognizing the pressing poverty issues in the local community, the congregation felt both an opportunity and an obligation to assist Salem’s neighbors. Initially, Salem Lutheran responded by mobilizing volunteers to collect furniture, household items, and clothing, distributing them to those in need. This grassroots effort relied on the dedication of a few volunteers, and the collected goods found temporary homes in the back of the church fellowship hall or in congregation members’ garages.

However, it soon became evident that the need exceeded expectations, and storage emerged as a critical challenge. In 2002, several members of Salem Lutheran took a bold step to ignite the ministry’s growth. Anonymously, they purchased and donated the Deerwood Laundromat—a vacant building located west of the church. Thus, Salem West was born.

With unwavering commitment, Salem members contributed their time and resources to renovate and expand Salem West into a space they could be proud of. The completion of remodeling marked a significant milestone: Salem West was now spacious enough to clear out the fellowship hall! By 2008, Salem West had made a profound impact, serving over 900 referrals that year, with an astounding 11,000 volunteer hours dedicated to the cause. Salem had purchased vehicles and trailers, rented garages and pole barns to grow the ministry and impact in the community.
Out of death comes new life: 
Good Friday March, 1st 2017 Salem West building burnt to the ground. Firefighters salvaged a small portion of the Salem WEST building, but a majority was destroyed. Some walls remained standing but clothing and household items inside the building were destroyed.

In the aftermath, discussion arose: Should the ministry cease to exist? But by 9 a.m., determination prevailed. A plan emerged—a testament to unwavering faith and community spirit. Twenty-five years after its inception, Salem West completed a full circle. Once again, it found refuge within the church fellowship hall, ready to embrace its mission: serving those in need. In May 2017 an old lumber yard was purchased to house the ongoing ministry of Salem Outreach. 

The transformation of a small-scale operation into a thriving community resource exemplifies the power of collective compassion and action.
The Mustard Seed Thrift and Gifts is a remarkable initiative that has significantly impacted the community. Founded by a group of three dedicated volunteers, affectionately known as the “Mustard Seed Three,” this thrift store in Deerwood, Minnesota, has become a beacon of hope. Let’s delve into its inspiring story:
  • Origins and Purpose: In May 2009, faced with the challenge of meeting increasing requests for services, Salem’s Social Ministry needed a sustainable solution. Surrounded in prayer, the idea of opening a thrift store emerged, and the Mustard Seed was born. The store’s mission was twofold: to generate self-sustaining income and to utilize excess donations effectively.
  • A Place of Joy and Excitement: The Mustard Seed opened its doors in July 2009, thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteers. With over 100 volunteers from Salem and the broader community, the store quickly became a vibrant space. It combines the flair of a boutique with thrift store pricing, offering items like furniture, antiques, clothing, jewelry, and even a “men’s corner.”
  • Impact and Growth: The Mustard Seed’s success has been astounding. Through thousands of volunteer hours and unwavering prayer support, the store generates funds that directly benefit Salem’s Social Ministry. These funds enable them to serve more families and individuals in need each year.
  • Continued Expansion: Over the years, the Mustard Seed has continued to evolve. Salem Lutheran Church purchased the property in 2011, allowing for renovations and expansions. Again in 2019 was a new addition to the west, closest to the Deerwood Legion – giving even more store space and also much needed storage.
  • Merger and new ideas; In 2022, Salem Outreach received a transformative grant from the Initiative Foundation. This grant facilitated several crucial improvements. The donation processing center was insulated and heated, allowing year-round operation. Plumbing was reconfigured, and new dishwasher and wash stations were installed in the processing center. The old processing center at Salem West was transformed into the new Mustard Seed Store, opening in May 2023. Consolidating operations in one location proved to be a game changer for the organization, Long-term cost savings resulting from this change will continue to benefit the community.
  • Clothing Recycling Program:  In Fall 2023, in collaboration with Common Goods, Salem Outreach initiated a clothing recycling program. They installed a bailer machine, allowing discarded clothing to be recycled into usable goods worldwide.


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