Disaster survivors were paying it forward Tuesday in Minot as part of New York Says Thank You Foundation's annual observance of the National Day of Service and Remembrance on Sept. 11
Among volunteers working on restoring a flooded home in Minot were three New York City firemen and six other volunteers, including tornado survivors from Arkansas and firefighters from Kentucky.
The volunteers are in North Dakota to assist this week with construction of Annie's House, an adaptive ski lodge being built at Bottineau Winter Park in memory of Ann Nelson, a Stanley native who died in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
Jeff Parness, left, and other volunteers with New York Says Thank You Foundation size up a basement wall in the home of Gina Horner in Minot, where they worked on a rebuilding project Tuesday.
Jeff Parness, founder of New York Says Thank You Foundation, said some volunteers on the Bottineau project who arrived early had interest in aiding a flood-impacted family in Minot since the focus of the organization is disaster response.
"It's important to at least help one and make a statement that we don't forget what happened here," Parness said.
Brian Fitzpatrick, a New York City firefighter who was at Ground Zero 11 years ago on Sept. 11 and in the months following, said he and his colleagues volunteer to say thanks for the assistance from folks around the country after the 2001 disaster.
"We are helping people who went through terrible tragedies like we did," he said, noting that it is worth it "to see on their faces that other people care."
Originally, volunteers from Slidell, La., were scheduled to work on the rebuild, but plans changed when Hurricane Isaac struck close to their homes recently.
The group working Tuesday repaired the flood-damaged basement of Gina Horner's southwest Minot home.
Horner said she rebuilt the flooded main floor herself with the help of family, moving back in just before Christmas with two of her children. Another grown daughter also lives in Minot.
She had planned to eventually finish the basement, which was the living space for her teenage daughter.
"I just figured we would work on it gradually and get it done when we get it done," she said.
However, she also signed up with Hope Village, thinking the volunteer coordinators there might have helpers to spare for her someday. She was surprised but thrilled when she learned just days ago that New York Says Thank You would be sending a crew. The volunteers hoped to get her basement put back together structurally in their one-day build.
Horner said she plans to be in Bottineau Saturday to participate in the Stars of HOPE project taking place there as part of the New Yorks Says Thank You event.
Stars of HOPE is a unique volunteer organization that empowers children to transform communities affected by disasters through the creation of colorful and inspiring art. About 40 volunteers will be in Minot through this week to engage children at Longfellow School and others in the community in painting messages of hope on wooden stars that will be planted around the valley.
Events include a community paint Thursday at Minot State University from 3 to 7 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Oak Park. The events are open to all ages.
Mark Goodloe, from the Yew York City area, arrived in Minot Tuesday to assist with Star of HOPE painting in Minot and Bottineau. The goal is put out more than 3,600 stars and exceed the number created at an event in Georgia last year.
It's a simple project yet it brings so much encouragement, Goodloe said. He especially likes seeing the creativity of the children.
"They really get inspired by this," he said. "It's really an inspiration to watch these kids."
The New York Says Thank You Foundation also will be bringing the National 9/11 Flag, one of the largest American flags to fly above the wreckage at Ground Zero, to Minot and Bottineau on Thursday. Public viewing of the flag will take place in Minot at 2 p.m. in front of Old Main at MSU.
On Thursday at 3 p.m. in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall and 7 p.m. in Aleshire Theater, both at MSU, there will be a showing of "New York Says Thank You The Movie." The 90-minutes documentary is about Sept. 12, 2001, when volunteers from all over America started arriving in New York to help.