Sen. John Hoeven was on hand to personally present students of Minot Public Schools with "When I Grow up I Want to be a Pencil," by Kathleen Church-Scoufaras, Monday morning, one of 285 books he helped secure to replace those lost in June's Souris River flood.
The presentation took place in the library of Minot High School-Central Campus, amid a crowd of faculty and students from several different schools around town.
The books, which Hoeven called a tremendous resource for students, came from the Surplus Books Program of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The program helps schools around the country that have lost books due to a disaster.
Sen. John Hoeven presents “When I Grow up I Want to be a Pencil,” by Kathleen Church-Scoufaras, to Minot students in the library of Minot High School-Central Campus Monday morning. Hoeven worked to secure a 285-book donation from the Library of Congress to replace some of the books lost in June’s Souris River flood.
"Through the Library of Congress, we're actually able to replace a lot of those books, and that's exactly what we're doing here," Hoeven said. "We're putting almost 300 books from the Library of Congress' Surplus Books Program to the Minot Public School System."
He said the schools hit particularly hard by the flood - including Erik Ramstad Middle School, Longfellow Elementary and Lincoln Elementary - are really in need of books, so this will help those schools tremendously.
Hoeven also presented Katie Scheeler, Central Campus librarian, and Carla Luehe, Erik Ramstad librarian, with a copy of "Great Expectations," by Charles Dickens, which Hoeven said he read while attending school in Minot.
"Katie and Carla, thanks so much for the great work you do on behalf of our students, and I present you with this book as one of the almost 300 books from the Library of Congress," Hoeven said.
He then asked for any student volunteers to speak about why they like to read, and after several quiet moments Hannah Nelson, a sophomore at Central Campus, spoke up.
"I like to read mostly because it's like entering another world, really," Nelson said. "You can get so lost in a book because it's so good and you don't even realize what's going on (around you) because you're just so engrossed in the book."
Hoeven then talked the two librarians, who didn't have the safety of numbers to hide behind like the students enjoyed, into saying a few words.
"We're very appreciative that we have this opportunity to receive more books, and I just have to say that the day the siren went off in Minot was traumatic and very scary, but the outpouring of kindness and gifts and help this community has been receiving has been a blessing for all of us," Luehe said. "So thank you very much."
"We do appreciate the thoughtfulness and the generosity of this gift of books, and thank you very much," Scheeler added.
Supt. Mark Vollmer was also grateful for the books, and thanked Hoeven and the Library of Congress for the generous donation.
"As we enter this week of Thanksgiving, we do remind ourselves of the many things that we the citizens of Minot do have to be thankful for, and toward the top of that list is the continued support of our city and state leaders, as well as our entire congressional delegation - leaders who put the needs of our community in highest priority," Vollmer said. "So today we not only say thank you for this wonderful donation of books, but we also want to take the opportunity to thank the people here with me today for all they have done to help us recover from the flood of 2011.
"We will be back, we'll be back better, and we'll be back stronger than before. So thank you very much."
Hoeven then took a moment to give an update on federal flood relief assistance to North Dakota in general and the Minot area in particular.
On Thursday of this past week Community Development Block Grant funding, which is for housing, and Emergency Relief Program funding, which is for roads, was approved as part of a continuing resolution passed through both the House and Senate, according to Hoeven.
"That funding now, combined with the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funding we passed earlier in an earlier resolution, will provide most of the flood relief funding that we receive for flooding throughout the state of North Dakota and for here in Minot," Hoeven said. "To this point there's about $400 million that has come into Minot; there will be significantly more. We'll receive about $1 billion statewide in federal assistance for the flooding."
According to information provided by Hoeven's office, federal flood relief money given to North Dakota as of Nov. 14 is approximately $1.276 billion, while the Minot area, including Ward County, has received $394.3 million.
"It goes both for recovery efforts and for housing, but also to prepare for any possible flooding next year," Hoeven said.
He noted North Dakota will get more than $300 million in Emergency Relief Program funding for roads, which will be on top of the regular highway allocation, which usually runs from $230 million to $250 million per year.
"So all told for roads around the state this year, we're looking at more than $550 million for roads and highways. That's far above what we've ever received before," Hoeven said. "The most we've ever received in Emergency Relief Program funding is about $100 million in any one year."
The CDBG funding for housing comes to $400 million. Hoeven said it has not yet been determined how much of that will come to the Minot area, but he said the amount would be substantial. Hoeven said they are working with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, to find out how much of that $400 million will come to Minot, and he hopes to have an answer in the first half of December.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Funding is around $80 million to $100 million, and goes right to housing and building the flood control project. Hoeven said Minot can use the block grant funding and CDBG funding for housing, to buy out homes, to help people rebuild homes, and also to help build the flood control project.
"Obviously you can see we hope to be well over $200 million between the block grant and the CDBG dollars to help with that housing and flood control project," Hoeven said.