MINNEAPOLIS -- A local retiree has turned a family cookie mix into a ministry that is feeding bodies and souls at Minnesota Teen Challenge (MnTC).
"I saw they were not having too many sweets and treats, so I started baking cookies," Irene Thiele said.
That was 12 years ago. Irene has been baking 50 dozen cookies every week ever since.
MnTC has been around for 25 years, helping teens and adults recover from drug and alcohol addiction. There are campuses in Minneapolis, Brainerd and Duluth.
"It is the right place to come when you need some help," Irene said. "You do not need to be ashamed, because you are doing it for yourself, for your family and for God."
Irene has been a fixture at the Minneapolis location, where each week she delivers freshly baked cookies to the extended care program.
"It came from my mom," Irene said about the recipe for her cookies.
When Irene cooked through one stove, members of the Single Parent Christian Fellowship took up a collection for a new one. Her family added an industrial-size mixer too.
"God is up there watching and helping me," Irene said about the huge number of treats she creates each week.
And the cookies are only part of her commitment to MnTC. Irene also takes individual residents out to the movies and regularly pays for their meals.
"I remember one time we had a visit and we just talked for three straight hours," Minnesota Teen Challenge alumni Alec Urquhart said.
"My parents sent me into Minnesota Teen Challenge on March 7th, 2008," graduate Caleb Larson said. "I think the following weekend is the first time I met Irene."
It was the beginning of a friendship that would be a key part of Caleb's recovery from drug addiction.
"Never once did she miss one Saturday," Caleb explained. "As my mind started to clear, I started to realize what she was doing and how much she really cared."
"The love never wavered," Alec added. "She doesn't want to preach. She wants to listen."
"She comes consistently and faithfully, every single week and spends time with people," said Pati McConeghey of Minnesota Teen Challenge. "Irene shows them what it means to be faithful."
"Sometimes they really bare their soul," Irene said. "I love them all. I love Teen Challenge."
That's why, after the treats and the talks, you will also find Irene at MnTC celebrations of recovery.
"God gives me the strength and I'm glad I can do it," she concluded.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)