The Rev. John Guttermann, a pastor at United Church of Christ in New Brighton, speaks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast today at First Lutheran. Guttermann was invited to the event to be the keynote speaker. -- Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

Seeking justice

Published 10:30am Monday, January 21, 2013

By Colleen Thompson

While it might be a day off from school and a day where the post office is closed, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is much more than a holiday.

“It’s a day honoring service, not just ‘oh, it’s a holiday,’” said Pat Stumme, who has been on the Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast committee for the past three years.

Marleny Huerta-Apanco, the recipient of the Paths to Peace scholarship, speaks during the 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast in Bethany Hall at First Lutheran Church.

Twenty-five years ago, the Peace and Justice Committee sought to highlight the peace, justice and service that King worked so hard to create.

“The committee wanted to do a celebration for King’s birthday and we thought of a breakfast,” said Ted Hinnenkamp, who has been a charter member on the committee, along with his wife, Mary, for all 25 years.

The breakfast of rolls, juice, milk and coffee was served from 7 to 8 a.m. today in Bethany Hall in First Lutheran Church of Albert Lea. This year the breakfast’s theme was “25 Years: Still Seeking Justice For All” and featured keynote speaker the Rev. John Guttermann with the topic of “Justice Anywhere.”

Guttermann is the pastor at United Church of Christ in New Brighton. He works with law enforcement and organizes visitations for the undocumented people incarcerated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Ramsey County jail.

Mark McGivern, at microphone, Andy Ehrhardt and Andrew Kozelsky speak about Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from Birmingham jail to a room of about 80 people at First Lutheran church this morning.

“We are very fortunate to feature him,” Hinnenkamp said. “He’s a very important advocate for immigration rights.”

In his keynote address, he talked about how peace and justice relate to his cause. He discussed the circumstances faced by people put in jail not because of crimes but because of lack of proper documents.

“We have a lot of detainees in town who are undocumented and law enforcement has tried to set up visitation but so far hasn’t been successful,” Hinnenkamp said.

The Albert Lea High School concert choir sang and the Paths to Peace scholarship was presented to Marleny Huerta-Apanco by Jeremy Corey-Gruenes, an English teacher at ALHS.

“We try to get as many people in the community as possible involved, especially the schools,” Hinnenkamp said.

The organizers of the breakfast also hope to stress the importance of volunteering.

“Freeborn County is looked at as a strong volunteering community,” Stumme said. “We want people to have impact on issues in the community.”

There have been several driving forces behind making the breakfast a success over the years. Stumme, the Hinnenkamps, Paul Goodnature, Linda Lares and Dennis Dieser have all been major contributors to the planning throughout the years. They always try to center the breakfast around a theme of peace and justice. They came to a unanimous decision while planning for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2013 to focus on denied civil rights to undocumented inmates.

The breakfast usually has anywhere from 50 to 200 attendees, and this year there were approximately 80 people present. It was concluded with the Rev. John Holt leading “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”