Ask Alayne Okland what it is she likes best about her job, she replies, "It's the members. I love working with the members."
She is kept busy as the manager for 2nd Story, a free and inclusive club that gives adults with developmental disabilities the opportunity to participate in a variety of social and educational activities, while also promoting independence and self-sufficiency to help them better integrate into their community.
A Minot resident since her first birthday, after graduating from Minot State University with a degree in social work, as part of her field placement Okland started work with the Minot Vocational Workshop, now called Kalix. The workshop had been founded with the intention of assisting adults with various disabilities whose families opted not to have them institutionalized.
2nd Story program
director Alayne Okland stands in the club’s entryway Thursday next to a picture of Mike Dolan, the philanthropist who helped
secure the grant which moved them to the downtown building in 2005. A licensed social worker, Okland has been with 2nd Story for 35 years, with no signs of stopping.
"That was my first experience" working with this group of people, Okland recalled. "I really enjoyed that kind of work," she found, staying on at the workshop for a few years before a position for assistant director at 2nd Story became available.
That was in August 1978. Founded three years before, the club had 35 members and met in the basement of a downtown Main Street business. The status of adults with disabilities was different then, with limited options and not as many protections for their civil rights in place.
"I've seen a lot of changes," she said of the time since. In particular, the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 marked an improvement, ensuring that adults of all abilities could finally experience a greater equality of opportunity.
Thirty-five years since she started, Okland has a lot to be thankful for. Through the efforts of local entrepreneur and philanthropist Mike Dolan, a grant through the Minot Area Community Fund in 2005 was able to shift 2nd Story up from the basement to its street-level facilities at 13-1st Ave. SW.
"It was our dream to move up here," she said, and though ongoing construction projects will limit parking for a while she is happy the club is still located downtown, a conveniently centralized spot for the club's 336 members to meet.
"We get so much from the community," from the food donations by various churches to the innumerable contributions of local volunteers. Through such support, she acknowledges that the program can operate without any public funding.
"Downtown merchants are good to us, too," she added, giving the club time and space to hold its various fundraisers, such as the birdhouse auction it held in August. Ten handmade birdhouses were decorated by local artists, sponsored by various business and groups, and put on display downtown in shopfront windows for silent auction. "We raised almost $7,000."
The club works to repay kindness for kindness, with members helping to keep the downtown streets tidy during the summers, among other projects. "We want to get them out in the community," Okland explained.
"2nd Story is such a big part of my life," said Okland. With administrative duties split between herself, her assistant director, Dot Theobald, and a handful of dedicated volunteers, she added "we have a hard time taking a vacation."
"Nothing exotic," she explained, just a train trip to the Twin Cities and Wisconsin to visit her relatives.
Busy as she keeps during her workweek evenings, she is glad those hours still allow for a flexibly scheduled personal life. "I love walking," she said, and takes Zumba courses through a local adult education program. "It's a fun way to meet people and get good exercise." Okland also enjoys making stained glass, dabbling in interior design, and spending time with her husband and three children, now all grown. Two daughters have shared her profession as a social worker, and a son runs his own business in construction.
Even distaster cannot keep her down, recalling the 2011 flood which ended up destroying her family's home of 20 years. "We had 20 years of great memories," she said, putting it in perspective. Afterward, she and her husband moved into temporary emergency housing for eight months. "We were so happy to have it," and it was a time to reevaluate life, stuff, et al. "It will be a good memory for us," she said.
Fortuitously, an opportunity presented itself that allowed them to relocate to North Hill, where the view is good and the yard accommodating for building a fire pit.
Her work at 2nd Story continues to be a positive outlet, even 35 years later. "Neither of us wants to leave what we're doing," speaking for both herself and Theobald, who is a veteran of 20 years.
A year-round program, as the club takes down its pumpkins and fall decorations and begins preparing for the holiday season, Okland is busy planning for the next event. "Now we'll be doing our annual community drive," she said, describing it as the biggest fundraiser of their year.
"People are really good all year round," she said, "but you can really tell when Christmas is coming." Then not long after that wraps up, 2nd Story will begin preparing for its annual Snow Ball with the Eagles Club, Feb. 1 at the Knights of Columbus hall.
Always busy, the program keeps an updated schedule posted on its website, (www.secondstoryclub.com), under the calendar tab. It also runs a wish list in The Minot Daily News every Sunday in its E Section, under "Events." For more information on ways to get involved, consult the site or call the office at 838-0912.
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.)