Weather Forecast


African choir gets hot thanks to donation

Members of the Asante children's choir perform for students at McAuliffe Elementary School in Hastings on Nov. 27.

A small group of boys and girls from Africa are a lot warmer thanks to the generosity of a Hastings business.

A few weeks ago, the Asante children’s choir came to Hastings to perform at Calvary Christian Church and the Pinecrest and McAuliffe elementary schools. The choir performed at the church on Nov. 24 and then three days later at McAuliffe. Following those performances, the choir traveled to Burnsville and St. Cloud before returning to Hastings on Sunday, Dec. 1.

During all that, residents here learned that the choir’s bus didn’t have a heater. The children were, to put it mildly, cold.

That’s when community members got to work behind the scenes. Molly Hanson, a member at Calvary Christian, got the word out.

Doug Erickson, who had housed a few of the children during their visit, helped line up a van for the choir to use. He then called his friend Pat Regan, who owns the Hastings Bus Company.

Regan told Hanson and Erickson to get the bus to the garage at the bus company, and that he’d take care of the rest. The mechanics there got the heater working again within a few hours.

“Pat donated the time and the money he paid his mechanics,” Hanson said. “They worked on it for a day and got it working again.”

The choir’s tour continued in the upper Midwest last week with stops in Willmar and Spicer last week and Eau Claire this week. That heater, in other words, will be coming in handy.

Another group of people lined up boots, warm hats and mittens to help the cold sting a little less. The boys and girls in the choir were very appreciative, Hanson said.

“Everything means so much to them,” she said. “They appreciate everything.”

Last year, the choir performed at Kennedy Elementary School, in addition to the church.

“It’s a wonderful experience for our children to see how much they have, and it’s wonderful for these kids that come from Africa to see what we have here,” Hanson said. “It’s great for both sides.”

Staying here

While the choir was in Hastings, the seven boys, nine girls and their chaperones were all treated by host families.

While hosting the students is easy, seeing them go isn’t.

“Once you get them in your home, you don’t want to let them go,” Hanson said. “Everywhere they go, people want to keep them. They’re the sweetest things. They’re incredibly polite and thankful.”

The members of the choir are primarily orphans from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and are just a small number of the children that Asante has in its orphanages. Some 2,500 children are cared for by Asante.

The small group that gets to travel around the United States and perform aims to raise money to support the orphanage.

“These are kids with incredible musical talent,” Hanson said.

Erickson said being a host family changed his household.

“I can tell you that my life has changed in an unbelievable way by having those children in my house,” he said. “It was amazing.”

Erickson said he took the kids to Afton Alps to see snow, marking the first time most of them had seen it. They even made a snowman.