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St. Bart's takes up outreach challenge

Steve and Kathy Schmitt, members of the Total Ministry Team at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church set-up a Nets for Life display to advertise the Lenten drive to raise funds to purchase mosquito nets to protect third-world children against Malaria. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Lent is traditionally the Christian season of prayer, penitence, self-denial and almsgiving in preparation for the celebration of Easter.

St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church Bemidji has taken on an alms and charity challenge to raise money to buy mosquito netting for people living in malaria-plagued parts of the world.

"This is a national project for the Episcopal Church," said Steve Schmitt of St. Bart's Total Ministry Team. "Episcopal Relief and Development ... works worldwide on such things."

He said the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota has endorsed the project, which will run from today, Ash Wednesday, through World Malaria Day, April 25, the day after Easter.

"Our goal is 20,000 nets, one for every Episcopalian (in Minnesota)," said Don Conner of the Total Ministry Team.

The cost per net is $12.50, which includes shipping, distribution and an education program for the people who will use them. The Diocese of Minnesota aims to raise $235,000. And the approximately 120 members of St. Bart's are determined to contribute more than their share with the help of the greater Bemidji community.

"How about, let's do one for every Minnesotan," said Kathy Schmitt of the Ministry Team. "It's not just for Episcopalians. It's for everybody."

According to the Roll Back Malaria website, there are 247 million cases of malaria annually worldwide with most - 212 million - in Africa. The cases result in 881,000 deaths annually with 85 percent of these deaths in children younger than 5 years old. Human malaria carriers, even those who show no symptoms, will infect a mosquito when they are bitten. When the mosquito takes its next blood meal, it will infect its next host.

The nets prevent people from being bitten by mosquitoes while they sleep. The nets also contain an insecticide, which is safe to people and warm-blooded animals, but deadly to mosquitoes to reduce the insect population.

Kathy Schmitt said St. Bart's has taken part in other practical outreach projects such as Tubs of Love for needy families at Christmastime and Soles for Souls shoe collection.

"We had shoes coming in the door," she said.

Carol Carpenter, also a member of the team, said the church will hold a fundraiser for Net for Life April 16 with a bake and craft sale and soup and chili lunch.

The invite anyone who would like to donate to send a check to Nets for Life care of St. Bart's, 1800 Irvine Ave. N.W., Bemidji, MN 56601.