Closure ceremony

“The disaster is defeated,” the Rev. Paul Krueger declared Monday before volunteers and faith groups gathered at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Minot to celebrate the end of a mission.

Hope Village, a faith-based effort to provide accommodations for flood recovery volunteers, closed its doors after facilitating 169,623 hours of volunteer service to rebuild flood-damaged homes. A ceremony to celebrate the work of the past 17 months ended with volunteer agencies retrieving signs that had been posted at the village. The final few trailers remaining from the operation were shut up and awaiting removal Monday.

“The flood of 2011 does not get the last word, but the people of Minot do,” said Krueger, board president for Hope Village. “The community is strong. The people of Minot are strong, and this flood doesn’t win.”

Only 15 homeowners still are requiring volunteer assistance out of 544 homeowners who benefited from Hope Village. The work will continue through Lutheran Disaster Response, United Methodist Committee on Relief and Mennonite Disaster Services, even though Hope Village will no longer be hosting the volunteers.

“We will continue until the homes are completed, but in order to do that, we need some volunteers. We need some volunteers who are skilled,” said Joann Buchhop, assistant director for Lutheran Disaster Response. Volunteers are needed to finish homes, including installing cabinets, laying floors and hanging doors.

Local residents and others interested in helping can call 500-5192.

Hope Village hosted 397 teams with 5,272 volunteers from 48 states and five Canadian provinces.

“The volunteer labor gave a staggering $3.25 million of volunteer help to the people of Minot,” Krueger said. “That’s an exciting thing. We want to celebrate that.”

Present at the celebration were volunteers still on the job from Wisconsin, Illinois and Casselton in southeastern North Dakota.

Volunteer Nels Beckman from Hayward, Wis., is on his fourth trip to Minot. He spoke of wearing his volunteer badge rather than a cross around his neck at his church where he serves as a ministry assistant.

“The cross of Christ does not always take that form, and for me, this little ID badge is a form of the cross of Christ,” he said.

By bringing various disaster response groups together to work as a team, Hope Village has been a model for other disaster recovery operations.

“What we realized through Hope Village and it has been proven before when we work together, we are stronger and we can accomplish more,” Buchhop said.

There was laughter and there were emotional moments during the reflections on the work of Hope Village.

“The difference between Hope Village and most of the things that were happening around the city is the people that were running Hope Village and the people who were working here were doing it for a different reason. It was because they care,” said Mayor Curt Zimbelman.

Jim Hatlelid, Minot city council president, echoed the mayor’s words regarding the heart that volunteers had for the community.

“I hope you know that your efforts will always be a shining light on a dark time in our community,” he said.

U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., provided remarks delivered by their staff members.

Randy Hauck, chairman of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, surprised Krueger by presenting him with the chamber’s Genie Award.

“He has a desire to help all who need help, and he has that ability to lead,” Hauck said.

Organizations that partnered in Hope Village were recognized as they collected their signs, removed earlier from locations where they once hung in the village. Partner organizations were United Methodist Committee on Relief, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Convention, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Orphan Grain Train and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.