If Lawrence Fortenberry comes away from the Minot Municipal Auditorium smelling of hot dogs and hamburgers, it's for a good reason.
"If that's the worst thing that happens to us, we're all right," he said Wednesday evening as he and Steve Oster stood in a catering truck preparing the dinner.
Fortenberry and Oster are members of First Presbyterian Church, 1000-3rd Street Northeast. The church volunteers were working three weeks ago, during the first evacuation, to ensure evacuees were fed. They are now back.
James C. Falcon/MDN
Lawrence Fortenberry, with First Presbyterian Church, cooks hamburgers from a caterer’s truck on Wednesday evening outside the Minot Municipal Auditorium. The church helped prepare meals during the first evacuation earlier this month, and will continue to help as needed.
"We can handle about 400 meals without a sweat," Fortenberry said, as he flipped hamburgers.
Susan Ewert, emergency services director and volunteer services coordinator for the Mid-Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross, said that, as of Wednesday evening, there were 180 evacuees staying at the auditorium.
In addition to serving food at the auditorium, food is also ferried over to the Minot State University Dome, and the First District Health Unit, Fortenberry said. He added that he anticipates the church will continue to serve food from today until Saturday, and "as they need us or want us."
Their meal hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and potato salad, and coleslaw would be served shortly to the many people at the auditorium who have sought shelter from the flooding Souris River.
The food comes from different places every day, said Sharon Johnson, a disaster trained volunteer with the Mid-Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross. For lunch Wednesday, the Royal Fork brought an appetizing lunch of chicken, vegetables, scalloped potatoes with cheese and coleslaw, she said. "We just have oodles and oodles of organizations" that have helped with food, Johnson added. They are too numerous to mention by name.
The only stipulation with donated food is that it must come from a commercial kitchen, or one that has been approved by the health department.
Convenience and grocery stores in the flood evacuation zone have also donated food.
"The food has just been wonderful," she said, adding that refrigerators at the auditorium have been overloaded "umpteen times."
Johnson commented on the outpouring of volunteers.
"The community has been wonderful," she said, noting that there have been more volunteers than there are jobs.
On Wednesday, Johnson bounced from area to area, whether it was organizing the volunteers, overseeing that things were going as planned, and talking with evacuees. At one moment, she consoled a visibly upset woman. Forty-one years ago, she was one of them.
"In 1969, our home was flooded," Johnson, who now lives on South Hill, said. "The Red Cross took care of us for three months. I have a soft spot for this kind of thing and Minot because I've been there."