Hope Village was wondering where the money would come from to hire a food services director and feed its volunteers this summer when a local restaurant company made an unexpected offer.
Taco John's will give Hope Village 100 percent of proceeds from all sales at its three Minot restaurants today from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"The restaurant is helping us pay for a food services director. That's exciting," Hope Village director Steve Carbno said. "As a faith-based organization, we can only say that's an answer to prayer."
Taco John's wanted to be part of Minot's flood recovery, said Megan Grundstrom of Preferred Restaurant Group, which owns the Taco John's stores.
"We have been part of the Minot community for over 30 years so this hit us as much as it did the rest of the community," Grundstrom said of the 2011 flood. "Our offices were flooded. My home was flooded along with another person in our office."
But Taco John's now is back in its offices and has been looking for the right opportunity to help others. As company officials watched the community rebuild, they noticed the work of Hope Village.
"We really wanted the focus to be on rebuilding Minot after the flood. We wanted it to directly affect residents in Minot. Hope Village just seemed to be the best place for that," Grundstrom said. However, she said, "Instead of just writing a check, we wanted to make it fun and involve the community."
The company's three Minot locations are prepared for a stampede today. A church in Bismarck notified Hope Village that it plans to bring a busload of supporters to Taco John's to aid the cause, Carbno said.
"We are fully prepared. All three of our locations will be fully staffed with all of the employees," Gundstrom said. "Everybody is going to be kicked into high gear making tacos as fast as they can."
Grundstrom said employees were thrilled when they learned of the project, which has been in the works for about six months.
"A lot of our employees at the store level were affected by the flood," she said, noting that a couple still are living in the federal government's temporary housing units. "There was immediate excitement for the event."
There's no telling how much money might be raised, but store managers are hoping to break sales records that day.
Taco John's in Minot has long been familiar with fund-raising for local organizations through its stores. Saturday's event is expected to be the biggest fundraiser ever for the restaurant, though, and Grundstrom said those funds are significant because of the impact the money is going to have.
"To see that kind of a commitment from a corporation, it speaks that this is a family-run business that believes in he city and wants to be part of that whole process of putting it back into a healthy state," Carbno said.
He added that the event exemplifies the community support that continues to exist for Hope Village, which is entering its second season of hosting rebuild volunteers from out of the area. Over the winter, the stream of volunteers slowed, and churches assisted with off-site hosting.
The ability to provide meals to volunteers is important not just to meet physical needs, Carbno said. Meal-time gives volunteers a chance to come together, share stories and see the bigger picture of the impact of their contributions, he said.
Hope Village has hired Jennifer Kelley, who holds a bachelor's degree in culinary business from Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Ariz. She has worked 10 years in the food service industry. A native of Atlanta, she came to Minot about four years ago with her husband, who is in the Air Force. She previously worked at 10 North Main in Minot.
The Southern Baptist volunteers who ran the food service last year have commitments elsewhere this summer so Hope Village is getting a new kitchen trailer, which Kelley has been shopping to stock. Kelley is enjoying being part of a brand new operation. However, she added, "I am really more excited about the fact that I get to help people."
She considers the job a chanace to repay the help that Hope Village will be giving her. The Kelleys' flood-damaged home is to be replaced by a new dwelling through a reconstruction program of the city, but Hope Village volunteers also will be doing some work.
Although Hope Village has begun hosting a few volunteers, its official opening has been delayed due to weather. The village is expected to be in full operation May 1.