Preach Without Speech: Allan Law '62
This is a special post by Talon staff writer Gabbi Johnson that was originally published in the December 2015 edition of our award-winning student newspaper, The Talon.
“Many years ago I had the Salvation Army charity come to my church and they said, ‘We’re going to do something for the poor on Thanksgiving and on Christmas,’” said Minnehaha alumnus Allan Law (‘62), “and I said, ‘Well what about the other 363 days?’ And they looked at me like ‘What are you talking about?’”
Sandwiches and Basic Necessities
Driving down the streets of Minneapolis every single night, Law hands sandwiches and basic necessities to the homeless of Minneapolis, free of charge. Law started a program called Minneapolis Recreation Development (MRD) which has three branches: the 363 Days Food Program, Samaritan’s Outreach Program and Youth Builder Program.
Working After the Bell Rings
When Law graduated from Minnehaha Academy in 1962, he went to the University of Minnesota and afterwards, went to River Falls Wisc, where he earned his teaching degree. For 29 years he taught at a Minneapolis inner-city public school, but his work did not finish when the last bell rang. Seeing that many students did not have a place to go or food to eat after school, Law created an environment where he could mentor them and be the “father figure” that many lacked in their lives.
“Then we concluded the day at McDonalds,” Law remembered, “which I paid for. Everything for 29 years. Then once I dropped [the younger kids] off, I worked with the older young people…I’d get back to my apartment and be to bed by maybe one or one-thirty in the morning, sleep for three hours and get up to teach for another day.”
Making It Official
One morning in 1996, Law woke up and decided to start something new. He went downtown with the mission of making his work official and with the help of an attorney at Dorsey & Whitney Law Firm, Law created MRD as a tax exempt 501c3 non-profit. But unlike most non-profits, employees receive no salary or benefits from MRD.
“That’s it. No salaries, no deferred compensation, no expense account,” stated Law, “Every penny goes to the program. And I’ve been told it’s the only program in Minnesota, maybe even the country, like this.”
1,000 Socks and 600,000 Sandwiches
Driving his 15 person van packed with tote boxes, Law hands out sandwiches, which are made by hundreds of volunteers and stored in the 17 large freezers he has in his apartment. In addition to the sandwiches, Law gives clothing and other basic needs to everyone he can reach. Last year alone, he gave out over 1,000 socks and 600,000 sandwiches.
Metro shelters are packed with people, especially during the winter and only provide one meal a day. Law drops off goods at three Salvation Army locations, the Union Gospel Mission and other charity organizations around the city and he also hands out meals to those whom he sees on the streets.
The Goal: 400 People Off the Streets Each Year
“I help people to help themselves. My goal is to get 400 people or more off the streets every year,” said Law. He is encouraged when he doesn’t see a familiar face because he often hears that they got a job or are advancing their lives and no longer live on the streets.
Fueled by Faith
“I’m not going to stand on the corner and preach to someone. But I let people know through what I do that my Christian faith is the most important thing to me. Jesus is the center of whatever I do,” said Law.
Pushing people to believe as he does is not his goal. He hopes to share his faith by his actions towards others. Law accepted Jesus into his life while at a Billy Graham meeting at the State Fair in tenth grade while at Minnehaha, and his faith has grown ever since.
To this day, Law runs on a maximum of three hours of sleep per night and works 20 hours a day between delivering overnight and picking up sandwiches and clothing.
Around 8 p.m., Law drives out to Minneapolis from his Edina apartment for his nightly work.
“I don’t get any days off. Ever. If I’m not in the hospital, I take no days off the rest of my life,” Law stated proudly.
Gold Medallion for Public Service
The few days he has taken off included medical reasons and to address the United States Supreme Court on receiving the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Gold Medallion for public service.
“He is as big a character as you will ever find,” Tony Zosel told the Star Tribune in a 2009 profile. Zosel is one of Law’s former students who set up 363 Ministries, the group that coordinates sandwich-making. “He has a network of people who rely on him. Everyone knows to call Mr. Law.”
In addition to the delivery portion of the program, MRD has a program similar to what Law did while teaching. Providing for the youth is one thing Law believes will help the poor get off the streets.
The Youth Builder Program: Supporting Inner-City Youth
This program is named the Youth Builder Program and reaches out to inner-city youth by providing them with support through after school and summer activities. About 30 percent of youth involved in this program are living in some sort of emergency putting them below the poverty line.
Self-esteem and other life skills are emphasized, in order to make a lifelong impact and help them transition into middle school, high school and college. MRD provides tutoring and counseling along with basic school supplies for those who cannot afford it.
Law is freshman Winston Law’s great uncle, and he has inspired him to give back to the community after seeing all of Law’s work.
“It’s so cool what he does to help people,” said Winston. “It was also fun to see him in a movie.”
The Starfish Throwers
In 2014, Law was featured in the documentary “The Starfish Throwers” which highlighted three individuals from around the world who were creating a spark to fight hunger. One of the film posters quoted Law saying, “The most important thing in my life has always been to bring happiness to others.”