Hope Village downshifts into final phase

The winding down process for Hope Village began recently with the decommissioning of three bunkhouses, which are being diverted to disaster use elsewhere.

On Tuesday, the first two of the three bunkhouses known as Western Estates were loaded and transported to Norfolk, Neb. The owner, Orphan Grain Train, will send them on to Moore, Olka., where a tornado did extensive damage last May. The third Orphan Grain Train bunkhouse at Hope Village is scheduled for departure today.

Hope Village will continue to provide volunteer services to flood victims through October, when the camp portion of the operation located at Our Savior Lutheran Church will permanently shut down, said Steve Carbno, village manager.

“While we are losing assets here,” he said, “we are still going to be here fixing homes that are still in our scope.”

Following the 2011 Souris River flood, multiple faith-based agencies came together to form the unified volunteer center that has served to house and feed out-of-town volunteer teams since April 2012. The camp shut down temporarily last winter, using other housing options for volunteers until re-opening this past spring. The multi-faith, collaborative effort also serves to coordinate jobs for visiting volunteer teams and local groups assisting in the rebuild.

Carbno said volunteer numbers at this point of the summer have averaged only a couple of dozen. Despite efforts to keep Minot’s situation in the limelight, the national attention span is short and it is difficult to retain that focus after more than two years, he said.

Given projections for volunteers through the fall, the village no longer needs the 166 beds that it has had. With the removal of the Western Estates units, the village still has more than 100 beds. The village will gradually move out additional sleeping units over the next few weeks, retaining about 80 beds, Carbno said.

If a large group of volunteers comes that requires more facilities, Hope Village will use its off-campus housing arrangements with churches, he said.

Other sleeping units to be returned will go back to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Lutheran Disaster Response, United Methodist Committee on Relief-Dakotas Conference, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Lutheran Social Services North Dakota Disaster Response for later deployment to other disasters.

The Rev. Paul Krueger, Hope Village director, issued a statement noting that the transfer of sleeping units to another disaster is a significant development.

“It is an important milestone in our recovery efforts that we can begin to pay the process forward for others to be helped by volunteers, just as we have been here in Minot,” he said.

Four three-room sleeping units, two refrigeration trailers and a kitchen unit will stay in the area. These units, purchased with grant funding, will become part of the disaster response capacity of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and will be made available to disasters in the upper Midwest.

Carbno estimated Hope Village has about 40,000 hours of work left but only enough volunteer labor so far to complete 7,000 hours. Carbno said the village is looking to area residents, especially those with construction skills, to help fill some of that volunteer need. For more information, people can contact the Lutheran Disaster Response office at Hope Village at 500-5206.

As Hope Village winds down, it will be asking churches to adopt families to help them finish any home projects that village volunteers couldn’t get to, Carbno said. Building materials still will be available after the project Oct. 31 closure date of Hope Village.

“In the big picture, there’s still gong to be assistance here,” Carbno said.

The City of Minot’s Housing Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program is expected to reduce the number of homes waiting for volunteer help from 74 to about 50.

Since inception, Hope Village has impacted about 480 households and is closing in on its 500-home goal.

“We are going to exceed that. We will be over 500 homes when we are done,” Carbno said.

About 4,000 volunteers from 42 states and four Canadian provinces have come through Hope Village. This year, about 60 percent of the volunteers are back from a previous year.

“That speaks volumes because they saw what was going on here. They saw the need,” Carbno said. “They connected with the homeowners.”

He added that the support for Hope Village has exceeded anything he has seen previously in his years of work in the disaster field.

“What impresses me about Minot is we have not seen donor fatigue,” Carbno said. “We still have people that walk in off the street and support us. We have people that send us donations.”