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$500,000 donation ‘kicks off’ healthcare system’s fund drive

Posted 9/30/14 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

What better way to ‘kick off’ the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, Inc. Public Campaign for the new facility than with a $500,000 donation from First International Bank & Trust, which is their largest single donation to any community project in history!
“In giving this donation, we really just wanted to help encourage others to donate,” said Steve Stenehjem, First International Bank & Trust chairman and CEO. “We wanted to be a good example to our community and show that this is a project definitely worthy of support!”
With a goal of $15.5 million to be raised, the campaign is already over one-third of the way there as the community has already given more than $5.5 million to this overall goal. These community donations have come from our local businesses, corporations, and individuals.
“This planning really did start out at a grass-roots level by area residents who made the decision that we really needed to have healthcare in Watford City,” said Benefit Fund of McKenzie County Healthcare Systems Executive Director Kristin Bolken. “We now need a group of individuals to make this project a reality.”
Watford City and McKenzie County are a progressive community. “Progressive meaning Watford City is always thinking ahead and planning, not just for the next year, but for the next 10 to 15 years!” said Bolken. “And to have a top-of-the-line medical facility really matches with the progressive nature of our community, the foresight, and the seeing ahead.”
According to Patsy Levang, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems Inc. hospital board chairman, this is the ‘golden hour,’ meaning we need a top-notch facility right here, right now, so people can stay right here in Watford City where it’s all taking place.
The new healthcare facility will replace the town’s 1950-era hospital with not only a new top-notch hospital, but an expanded clinic and Good Shepherd Nursing Home, all under the same roof. And it will be built with the capability to grow and expand in the future as the community continues to develop and evolve.
“The facility will be built to have a very efficient flow with a low-staff demanding concept,” said Karl Kilgore, principal and director of design service for The CPI Group. “Having a very controlled environment ultimately equals patient safety, and as we ‘stack the deck’ we have the absolute winning team to get this job done!”
In addition to the community raising $15.5 million toward this project, two substantial loans will fund the remainder. One is coming from the Bank of North Dakota and the other is coming from the USDA. This is the largest loan the USDA has ever given, not only in North Dakota, but in the entire nation.
With the $500,000 donation from First International Bank & Trust comes heart-felt memories of a history dating back to the early 1900s. Stenehjem and his family presented this ceremonial check to this specific project because Watford City’s healthcare has impacted their lives for generations and means a great deal to them, personally.
Lee Stenehjem, Steve Stenehjem’s father, was very influential in getting Watford City’s first hospital built in 1952. Lee was one of the founding members of the city owned liquor store, now known as the Long X Bottle Shop. The profits of this liquor store went toward the cost of the new hospital until it was paid in full.
Steve Stenehjem’s grandfather, Dr. P.O.C. Johnson, was also one of the very first doctors in this area. He was the only ‘steady’ doctor in the area for a long time, until he passed away in 1962. There were even times he operated out of his own house and car.
According to Stenehjem, his grandfather had delivered around 3,900 babies for families in McKenzie County throughout his career here, including numerous members of his own family. And he was sought after because not only could he speak English, but he could speak Norwegian, which allowed him to communicate with the folks around here that only spoke Norwegian back then.
“Every time I listen to my dad speak, I always hear new stories and learn new history about my family I never knew about,” said Kira Stenehjem, Steve Stenehjem’s oldest daughter.
Currently, Stenehjem’s wife, Gretchen, is heavily involved in and passionate about the healthcare system in Watford City, in which she sits on the Benefit Fund Board. Steve and Gretchen’s youngest daughter, Kristen, will be applying for medical school to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. Healthcare is near and dear to their hearts and the reason they wanted to donate their largest gift yet.
“Healthcare is critical for this community,” said Stenehjem. “In giving this gift, we want to really encourage others in this community to donate as well. Again, this is definitely something worthy of support!”
 With 75 employees employed just here in Watford City, Stenehjem said he can really see the need for good healthcare in Watford City. First International Bank & Trust employs approximately 460 employees throughout their 22 banks across North Dakota, Minnesota, and Arizona. The bank was recently named one of the Top 50 Places To Work in North Dakota by Prairie Magazine.
With the imperative goal of raising $15.5 million dollars within the local community to help fund the $65 million replacement facility, the Benefit Fund Board plans on hosting a number of these reception events.
“We want to give the community a forum for dialogue and discussion about what is taking place and what our progress is,” said Bolken. “We also want to continue recognizing all of our donors, no matter what the amount is.”
The next reception is already set for Wednesday, Oct. 22, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Ballroom downstairs at Outlaws’ Bar & Grill. And receptions will continue to be held throughout the entirety of this project.
“I think the key and real momentum of this project is really driven by the passion of the individuals involved, so it’s so exciting to be a part of it!” said Bolken. “If people give to the project, it will move the project forward much more quickly!”
For people who are interested in donating, please contact Kristin Bolken by phone 701-842-4606 or by email at kbolken@mchsnd.org.