SWEDE PRAIRIE TOWNSHIP - Sometimes big things can come from even small groups of people.
While talking over coffee one day in May, the members of Swede Home Lutheran Church - all 13 of them - decided to donate to the capital campaign for a cancer treatment center at Avera Marshall Medical Center. The country church will be contributing $25,000, using funds saved up over the course of more than 50 years.
"We thought it was a nice way to do something for the community," said church member Marlys Londgren.
Photo by Deb Gau
Most of the membership of Swede Home Lutheran Church had gathered Thursday afternoon to talk about their congregation’s decision to donate $25,000 to build a cancer treatment center in Marshall. Members said giving to the project was a way to help their neighbors and area communities. In front row, from left to right, are: Randy Gaffney, Marlys Londgren, Eleanor Appelwick, and John Londgren. Back row: Sharon Gaffney, Chuck Gaffney, Elden Appelwick, and Merle Pearson. Church members not pictured are Jamie Anderson, Sonja VanLeeuwe, LeRoy Peterson, Curt Coover and Rodney Gaffney.
The Avera Marshall Foundation is currently in the middle of a capital campaign to help build a cancer institute in Marshall. The facility would offer both radiation and chemotherapy treatment for people in the region. If the capital campaign reaches its goal of $5.45 million raised, Avera Marshall could break ground for the cancer center this fall, said Foundation Executive Director Marty Seifert.
Swede Home Lutheran is in Swede Prairie Township, south of Clarkfield in Yellow Medicine County. Although church members said the congregation had more than 100 people in the late 1930s, it's since shrunk into a small, but close-knit group.
"We have coffee every Sunday after church," Londgren said.
Swede Home is now part of the Healing Waters Parish, a group of five churches located around Yellow Medicine County.
Church members said they were talking in the fellowship hall at Swede Home about three weeks ago, when the cancer institute came up in conversation. They agreed it seemed like an important step forward for medical care in the area.
"It's just so far to travel to get cancer treatment," said church member John Londgren. Church members said they knew "plenty of neighbors" and community members who had to make the trip to Sioux Falls or Willmar for treatment.
The idea came up to donate to the center, using some of the church's savings.
"We just started talking about it, and we thought we should do something with the money," church member Sharon Gaffney said. "Everyone gets to use it this way."
Swede Home members said the church has survived with the help of two farm properties given to Swede Home in 1942 and 1963. The farms' owners were past members of the church, and current members say they're still very grateful for the gift.
"We've been renting it out," church member Merle Pearson said of the land. "We use the money to run the church."
"Thank goodness we never sold it," John Londgren added.
Throughout the years, Swede Home members said, there was enough money saved up to take care of the church property and cemetery and still give generously to the cancer center. So that's what they decided to do.
Seifert said Swede Home's donation came as an inspiring surprise.
"It's very humbling to see that kind of contribution from a small church like this," Seifert said. "We're hoping maybe there are other churches in other communities that might think about (donating)."
Swede Home members said they hoped other churches would donate, too. The cancer institute is something everyone can benefit from, they said.
"Any amount would help," Gaffney said.