Even as Minot continues its flood recovery, the community is looking to pay it forward to others struggling in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Minot volunteers with Stars of HOPE have worked with Lutheran Disaster Response and representatives of Bucyrus to organize a Stars of HOPE event in Bucyrus Feb. 16. Last Oct. 17, a wildfire decimated Bucyrus, a southwestern North Dakota town of 27 people in 2010.
Stars of HOPE encourages people to paint colorful wooden stars, designated with messages of hope and inspiration, to be placed around their disaster-stricken communities. Sponsored by New York Says Thank You Foundation, the project came to Minot last September, installing 1,100 stars around the valley that had been flooded in 2011.
Stars hang back-to-back Monday on a post outside a southeast Minot home that the homeowner works to reclaim with the help of Hope Village volunteers.
Two stars painted through a Stars of HOPE project last September are posted near the Roosevelt Park and Zoo. The park and zoo were heavily damaged in the 2011 flood.
Minot now has its own Stars of HOPE operation, coordinated by Mary Barker.
Barker said volunteers will take 50 to 75 stars, already finished by Stars of HOPE volunteers from around the country, to place in Bucyrus on Feb. 16. They also will take about 30 pre-cut and base-painted stars to the Lutheran church in Bucyrus for community members to paint that day.
Michele Marthaller, Adams County emergency manager in Hettinger, said many residents of Bucyrus still have uncertain futures. Some are living in other communities while debating whether to return. The emotional impact of having their homes destroyed lingers.
"People just haven't recovered. Their everyday needs, I think, have been met, and Lutheran Disaster Response has been a very big help. They have been pretty much a godsend in helping deal with the incident," Marthaller said.
Bucyrus residents also have been encouraged by the support from other communities, and Stars of HOPE would be a continued show of that support, she said. It helps, she said, "just to be reminded that you are not alone in this and that other people do care.
In addition to the Bucyrus event, Minot Stars of HOPE plans to provide stars to survivors of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. Because the hurricane covered a large, heavily populated swath of the country, the Stars of HOPE organization expects to hold numerous events in the affected area.
Barker said 1,100 stars provided by volunteers around the country already have gone to Rockaway Peninsula and Breezy Point, both in Queens, N.Y. A community paint event will be held in Breezy Point and Howard Beach, also in Queens, from Jan. 15 to 21.
Minot plans to have representatives join a Stars of HOPE delegation that will travel to New York for the National Day of Service in September. At that time, Minot will "give it forward" to a community, yet to be selected. Barker said Minot and Joplin, Mo., have a friendly competition to see which community can prepare the most stars. Both have a goal of 3,500. Joplin gave it forward to Minot last September after becoming the recipient of a Stars event a year after a deadly tornado.
The process of cutting out stars for the East Coast is beginning in Minot in private shops. Acme Tools in Minot has committed to making 500 stars. The company plans to set up workshop times for employees and their families through March to do the cutting.
Barker said Stars of HOPE would like to find space to set up a permanent workshop in Minot where volunteers can come to cut and base-paint stars on a regular basis. In the meantime, the group welcomes individuals and businesses with shops to volunteer their services and space. People can contact Stars of Home at email@example.com.
Stars of HOPE is accepting donations to buy plywood to make the stars. People can donate directly through Menards. Checks payable to Menards should include a note in the memo line that the gift is for Stars of HOPE. To make a tax-deductible gift, people should use the email address to request details.
Minot Stars of HOPE expects to organize star-painting events through the schools and other groups.
The organization also seeks volunteers to help plan a Celebration of Hope event June 22. At that time, there will be a communitywide activity to paint stars with a base coat so they can be delivered to Hurricane Sandy survivors. Event supporters include the Minot Area Community Foundation, the City of Minot, Minot Park Board, Minot State University and Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
The process of making stars will be ongoing even after September.
"We want to build up an inventory here because there's always a disaster," Barker said. "We are figuring out some ways to get some funding nationally for the organization as a whole because the need is growing."
Barker said the local Stars of HOPE group wants to respond to disasters within the state as well as participate with the national organization in its efforts.
"If we have something tragic happen in North Dakota, it will be our goal to help bring them some hope," she said.
Minot Stars of HOPE has used Facebook as its main means of getting information to the community. People can "like" the page to follow the organization and get the latest information about events being planned.
Since Minot's paint event last September, decorative stars on street corners, parks and other areas have continued to cheer residents of the flooded valley, although Barker said some have migrated outside the valley to carry hope to the entire city.
"I think it made a difference in our community," Barker said. "I think they did just what they were supposed to do, and that's lift the spirits up a little bit."