Posted 11/27/13 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
Municipal infrastructures all over McKenzie County have needed boosting and reinforcing since the recent increase in oil activity began in western North Dakota. And in response to the increased oil impacts, infrastructures have been expanded. Roads have been ‘beefed-up,’ water and sewer lines have been added, electrical substations have been built and fiber optic cables have been installed, to say the least.
But one infrastructure need that is still struggling in the area is services that deal specifically with meeting the needs of transient people who are without a place to sleep in McKenzie County.
“We do not have a shelter that provides places to sleep and meals to eat for transient people in McKenzie County,” states Mark Honstein, assistant pastor at First Lutheran Church in Watford City. “So the Good Samaritan Fund has been there to fill that need.”
The Good Samaritan Fund is a benevolence fund, supported by the McKenzie County Ministerial Association and managed by the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department.
In the past, Honstein states that people who arrived in McKenzie County and were in need of food, a place to stay, or even a tank of gas, would be referred to the Sheriff’s Department. The department would then help them receive a meal, a hotel room, or a tank of gas, via the Good Samaritan Fund, to keep them going until they found a more permanent situation, either in McKenzie County or elsewhere.
Honstein states that the reason the sheriff’s department has been managing the fund was to prevent the McKenzie County Ministerial Association from aiding and abetting criminals who were running from active arrest warrants. But the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department has gotten too busy to continue managing that fund.
“Before this year, the fund was used maybe three times a year. But in 2013 alone it has already been used 10 to 20 times,” states Honstein. “Things have gotten so busy at the Sheriff’s Department, they do not have the time to continue managing the fund. And it is technically not their job, it is the church’s.”
Fortunately for the McKenzie County Ministerial Association, the Salvation Army already has a structure in place to deal with these types of community needs. And they already have a presence in McKenzie County.
“For the past 13 years, Pastor Barb Becker of the Glory of the Lord Family Ministries Church has been a Salvation Army representative in McKenzie County,” states Greg Sturm, western North Dakota Field Services Representative for the Salvation Army.
Sturm states that the Salvation Army has felt it important to have a presence in all 53 North Dakota counties. But the increasing need caused by increasing oil activity has caused the Salvation Army to want more of a presence in McKenzie County.
“The Salvation Army is such a wonderful organization and there is such an incredible need for the services they provide in McKenzie County,” states Becker. “The need has just gotten so vast that it is too much for one person.”
In the past, Becker states that she, through the Salvation Army, was able to help people who could not pay their MDU utility bills or provide Christmas presents for their children. But with only her representing the organization, some may not have even been aware the Salvation Army was operating in McKenzie County.
Because the needs in McKenzie County have gotten too big for both Becker and the Good Samaritan Fund, the Salvation Army is working to expand its presence in McKenzie County.
“The theme of the Salvation Army is Doing The Most Good. And, for it to be effective and better utilized, why not enlarge it,” states Becker.
Becker, with the help of Sturm and the McKenzie County Ministerial Association, is working to create a Salvation Army Board in McKenzie County. The board consists of six positions, Chairman, Secretary, two Client Representatives, a Bell Ringing Coordinator and a Treasurer.
“I didn’t realize I was doing the job of six people,” states Becker. “But I am so thankful the Ministerial Association has come alongside this ministry and helped to enlarge its presence here.”
The plan is to have area ministers, as well as community members, help fill the board positions. Pastor Jeff Ruggles of CrossPoint Church has agreed to chair the Salvation Army board, Honstein will fill the Bell Ringing Coordinator position, and Becker will stay on as a Client Representative.
In the past, area church pastors would raise money for the Good Samaritan Benevolence Fund at the Ministerial Association Thanksgiving Service. Because the fund is no longer operational, the Ministerial Association hopes to raise money to meet McKenzie County’s needs through Salvation Army Bell Ringing.
“When money is raised through bell ringing, 90 percent of what is raised stays in the county in which it was raised. And 10 percent goes back to the Salvation Army general fund as a tithe,” states Becker.
Last year, Becker, as the sole Salvation Army representative, was able to raise $4,000. This year, Honstein hopes to triple that number.
“The Good Samaritan Fund is practically depleted,” states Honstein. “The money we raise through this year’s kettle drive will go toward the Salvation Army’s 2014 budget.”
According to Ruggles, that will be money that can be used to provide a meal or a night’s sleep to someone in need in McKenzie County.
“We need to take care of the people who are coming into our community with needs,” states Ruggles. “The Salvation Army provides the structure for us to be able to do that effectively.”
“The biggest thing to me is that the churches are working together on this,” states Becker. “This is something that benefits the whole county and I am amazed that things have fallen together so smoothly.”
Bell ringing stations have already been set up in the Cash Wise and Jack & Jill grocery stores, as well as the lobby of First International Bank & Trust. And Honstein is hoping for many more locations.
The Salvation Army Board is still looking for people willing to volunteer as a bell ringer this Christmas season, as well as any community members that may be interested in serving on the Salvation Army Board.