Maddie Wall and Ahna Andersen, religious education students, help to sort donations from the Love Your Neighbor Food Drive Challenge. (Submitted photo)

The Barron Area Catholic Parish Cluster held its annual Love Your Neighbor Food Drive Challenge.  Each year, the four-parish cluster runs a month-long food drive to collect donations that will be distributed to the local food pantries and emergency housing shelter.

Reusable food drive bags were distributed at all parishes, and members were asked to fill their food drive bag and drop off their donations every week during the month of January. Religious education classes were also challenged to see which grade could bring in the most donations.

“Because of the generosity of our parish members and religious education students, we were able to collect over 2,600 items to distribute to the Chetek Food Shelf, Cameron Food Pantry, Barron Cupboard & Closet, and Benjamin’s House Emergency Shelter,” said Mindy Hamilton, one of the cluster’s religious education coordinators.

To conclude the challenge, St. Peter Church in Cameron hosted a musical performance featuring the Aly Aleigha Band. Patty Gerber, the cluster’s parish director, also presented a brief message on loving one’s neighbors and how this can be a difficult task, especially in a society so concerned with appearances and accomplishments.

She encouraged the audience to continuously give wherever and whenever they can, quoting Pope Francis’ Lenten Message: giving “… sets us free from our greed and helps us to regard our neighbors as a brother or sister.”

Anne Stephens, religious education coordinator, also discussed what local food pantries do, how they serve, and the number of people they help on average in a year. Within the communities of Barron, Cameron and Chetek, families were served close to 2,000 times in 2017.