To show the community's gratitude for the good Hope Village has done, residents, artists and a few businesses had pooled together to put on an evening of grilled food and live music for the program's volunteers Friday evening.
To date, 3,546 volunteers from 28 states around the country have passed through Hope Village, putting over 15,000 hours of service into the damaged homes and undone lives of Minot residents following the 2011 Souris River flood.
"It's been a remarkable ride," said the Reverend Paul Kruger, pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church and director of the Hope Village program. Formed in the spring of 2012 at the edge of the church's property, Hope Village has been a lightning rod for human kindness, drawing in the funds, folk, and general good feeling needed to so far contribute to the rebuilding of some 400 area homes.
Local residents and Hope Village volunteers relax to the music of Kevin Stenstrom in the pews at Our Savior Lutheran Church Friday evening, following a celebratory barbecue.
"There's something very gratifying, to be able to touch families' hearts at their time of hurt," said Kruger. Twenty houses' cases were closed this past week; at the moment, the program has another 120 or so left on its list.
Fargo resident Steve Carbno has been with the program for about a year now. He explained that the list is still "somewhat fluid right now," with affected residents still applying for assistance. "It's been an ongoing operation."
One of the group's organizers, Florida resident Linley Wartenberg, said that Friday's event was a culmination of thanks from private firms and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Workers from energy service companies such as Halliburton, Hess Corporation, and Rockwater Energy Services have taken notice of the Hope Village mission, and Wartenberg explained that for a while now they have wanted to host a meal for volunteers to show their appreciation.
The barbecue was slated for Thursday night, when there were around 130 volunteers still on site, but a scheduling conflict bumped it to Friday evening. With a number of volunteers leaving beforehand and enough food to feed 200 people, similar to the Biblical parable of the wedding banquet, organizers extended the invitation to the community at large. From the number of people in line at the grill, word seemed to have traveled quickly.
Stu Sund of Rockwater Energy was among those doling out the grillstuffs to outstretched buns. A Minot resident himself, he explained that he and his coworkers couldn't help but notice the work these volunteers were doing. "We figured this would be a good group to get involved with," Sund said, adding that they would like to contribute to a similar event again next month.
After the meal, a number of Minot musicians showed their appreciation through song, playing in the sanctuary of Our Savior Lutheran Church. Organized by Katie Nesdahl of the ELCA, the lineup included Kevin Stenstrom, Steph Fournier, Matt Hom, Joe Davis & Dan Hansen, Chris Stroschein, James Opstedal, and the church's elevenAM praise band.
"It was just really easy to put together," she said. "Minot has a wealth of talented people."
"It's their way of thanking the volunteers all around the country," Carbno said of the musicians.
As work is ongoing, local residents interested in volunteering with the Hope Village program can call 240-1499; out-of-state people interested in the program but that would be in need of housing should contact the program's toll-free volunteer registration hotline at 855-720-9804.