September 28, 2023
Red Lake Nation thanks MDS volunteers
“A huge asset to our community”
“You brought a good spirit to Red Lake. All of our people are happy with the work you have done.”
With those words, Kelly Iceman, a member of the Red Lake Nation, opened the September 22 closing celebration and feast at the Oshkiimaajitahdah center honouring Mennonite Disaster (MDS) for its work this summer in the northern Minnesota community following a 2021 tornado and hailstorm that damaged many homes.
“It was a great honour to have you here,” he said. “Thanks for bringing your good life and good heart here. You brought what will help us most—love. You brought smiles to the people you helped with your caring spirit.”
After his opening remarks, Iceman prayed in Ojibwe to thank for the meal and the work of the volunteers, followed by singing and drumming.
For Jerry Loud, Executive Director of the Oshkiimaajitahdah center where the feast was held, it was “unbelievable” what the volunteers did in the community.
“Having MDS here a huge asset to our community,” said Loud, who directs programming designed to promote the economic and social well-being of the community.
At the same time, it was a chance to “get to know each other and build relationships,” he said, noting that many volunteers had never been to a Native American community before.
Members of the Red Lake Nation also had a chance to learn about Mennonites, he said.
“We learned we are not really all that different from you,” he shared, noting Mennonites have historically also faced things like war, prejudice and loss of lands and homes.
“We are all one in the creator’s eyes,” he said.
“Thanks for bringing your good life and good heart here. You brought what will help us most—love. You brought smiles to the people you helped with your caring spirit.”
— Kelly Iceman, a member of the Red Lake Nation
Robert Neadeau directs emergency services for the Red Lake Nation. People in the community were “extremely grateful for the work you’ve done, the kindness and dedication you brought here to us,” he said.
What MDS did “has far exceeded my expectations,” he added, noting none of the repairs would have happened “without MDS . . . it’s been a blessing.”
Glenn Geissinger, chair of the MDS Minnesota Unit and the MDS Red Lake Project Coordinator, highlighted the work of volunteers. “I was impressed by how they jumped right in, how they figured out how to make things work. It was truly amazing and wonderful,” he said.
A total of 240 short and long-term volunteers served in the community from May to September, repairing damaged siding and windows on 24 homes, he said. About 30 others came earlier this year to help convert an old grocery store into a volunteer centre for MDS in the community.
Geissinger thanked the Red Lake Nation for “opening your hearts and homes to us, sharing your culture and yourselves. We learned much, and we want to continue it next year.”
While the project is shutting down for the winter, MDS plans to return to Red Lake next spring to do more repair work.
The project at the Red Lake Nation was made possible by support from the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications