Former church welcomes community

This panel of three stained-glass windows in the former church building that houses Heart of Minnesota Ministries depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

Heart of Minnesota Ministries (HOMM) is a new nonprofit ministry located in the historic building at 201 2nd St. NE in Aitkin; the former home of the First Congregational Church.

The establishment of this ministry as a nondenominational, Christ-centered community center is the realization of a dream for Gail Schardin, the former pianist and organist for First Congregational.

“This vision has been stirring in my heart for a long time,” Schardin said this week. After retiring from a career as a real estate broker, Schardin is seeking to use her time and resources now to give back to the community.

Schardin is the founder and director of the center and is supported by two other board members and some dedicated volunteers.

Already, HOMM is hosting fellowship time on Monday and Tuesday Bible studies. Pastor Susan Cline will be starting a new Bible study the first part of December, coinciding with the season of Advent.

On Wednesdays, the sanctuary is open from 10 a.m.-noon for people to come for quiet prayer, meditation or other independent, quiet activity. Thursday is a day of creativity to work on crafts and artwork while they enjoy fellowship. There are some quilts being made on Thursdays for the Quilts of Valor program, and someone is making a rug. Speakers and music programs are among the events that Schardin would like to see happening in the building.

“We really care about people in the community,” Schardin said this week. “There is a lot of loneliness and we want to do something about that. On Monday someone told me that she had been so lonely until she came here.” HOMM is a two-pronged ministry - the building is one of the oldest established church buildings in Aitkin and one of the most notable historic buildings in the city.

“We hope to maintain the building as a legacy for the First Congregational Church, therefore building preservation and restoration is also important to us,” Schardin said. The current main focus is on encouraging people in their faith and helping them get close to the Lord, by showing God’s love, kindness and mercy.

“To us, HOMM means hospitality. We want others to feel welcome and at home when they walk through the doors,” Schardin said.

HOMM has already hosted a memorial service, a baby shower and several family gatherings; a Christmas tea is scheduled. People are welcome to approach HOMM if they have an event they would like to hold there; the HOMM board makes the final decision about what activities are consistent with the mission.

“We aren’t a church but we want to come alongside and encourage people in their Christian faith,” Schardin has been saying in her outreach to local church leaders and congregations. As a federal and state 501(c) 3 nonprofit, with a mission of coming alongside local churches and using the building to do outreach and share the love of Jesus with others.

HOMM welcomes inquiries and ideas from community members by email or by phone at 218-429-0097.

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