By JILL SCHRAMM
Area residents will be paying it forward when the National Day of Service and Remembrance is observed in New York on Sept. 11.
At least five people have confirmed plans to travel to the East Coast to participate in projects of the New York Says Thank You Foundation or Stars of Hope during the days surrounding Sept. 11. In addition, Minot Stars of Hope plans to ship 2,000 base-painted, wooden stars to the coast so residents there can add words of encouragement and post the stars around their communities. About 1,300 stars already have been completed, said coordinator Mary Barker.
A similar community paint was held in Minot last September. Barker said the New York shipment, which exceeds the number of stars planted around Minot after the 2011 flood, reflects the spirit of North Dakotans in paying it forward even beyond what they received.
Representing Minot Stars of Hope in New York will be Nel Summers, her daughter, Renae Summers, and Renae's teenaged daughter, Sinowy.
"Stars of Hope wouldn't be alive without this family in Minot," Barker said, noting that Nel Summers is called on frequently when special stars are needed because of the quality of her work. "Her stars have really inspired and helped grow our Facebook following."
Nel Summers, who was not flooded but helped family members who were, said she discovered the Stars of Hope project last September during the communitywide paint. She said she saw how the project served "to help bring color back into our community." She has remained involved since.
"I wanted to help bring the light back. I know how depressing it was to drive through the flooded neighborhoods," she said.
She is eager to share the Stars of Hope project with hurricane and flood survivors on the East Coast.
"It will be interesting to just swap stories with them, and let them know that we did it, and we are recovering. They can, too. That's what a lot of them need to hear," Summers said.
Since last September, Minot volunteers have been involved in cutting and base painting stars to send not only to the East Coast but to other disaster-affected areas. Acme Tools of Minot has been a major supporter in cutting many of the stars for the project.
The national Stars of Hope will have a base painting event Sept. 5 through 8 in conjunction with New York Says Thank You Foundation building projects in Long Beach, N.Y. There also will be a community star painting in West Hamilton Beach, N.Y., on Sept. 10; a community and school star painting in Long Branch, N.J., on Sept. 12; a star posting event along Jersey Shore on Sept. 13; and a school paint in Newtown, Conn., the site of a school shooting last December, on Sept. 14.
Jennifer Issendorf, an employee at St. Andrew's Clinic in Bottineau and a ski instructor at Bottineau Winter Park, will be involved in the New York Says Thank You build in Long Beach. She said the event will be her opportunity to pay it forward for the help provided on Annie's House last year.
The New York Says Thank You Foundation sends volunteers each year around Sept. 11 to help rebuild communities affected by disasters. Many of the volunteers are emergency responders from New York. Last September, volunteers came to help with construction on Annie's House, an adaptive ski lodge at Bottineau Winter Park.
Issendorf, who was living in Minot when the terrorist attacks occurred, had joined local volunteers who assisted New York Says Thank You volunteers on the construction on Annie's House last year. Work on the lodge is nearing completion.
Annie's House honors the memory of Ann Nelson, a Stanley native killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I used to ski with Ann. She was a friend of mine," Issendorf said.
Ann's father, Gary Nelson, will be traveling to New York to participate in the foundation's activities.
The project in New York next month will rebuild damaged homes of fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical providers and other emergency responders. Areas to be assisted are Breezy Point, Belle Harbor, Broad Channel, Massapequa and Long Beach.
The effort is part of the foundation's commitment to help rebuild 200 homes of under-insured, active-duty New York City first responders displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
Issendorf and Nelson will be attending the memorial at Ground Zero on Sept. 11. Issendorf also hopes to take part in the Stars of Hope event and looks forward to the national flag ceremony, which had been conducted in Minot last year.
Destroyed in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11 and stitched back together seven years later by tornado survivors in Greensburg, Kansas, the National 9/11 Flag has become recognized as a modern day version of the Star-Spangled Banner. It has been featured at numerous events across the country.
To assist in defraying the expenses of local representatives to New York, an account has been set up at North Star Community Credit Union, P.O. Box 198, Bottineau, N.D. 58318, for Issendorf and through the Minot Stars of Hope at www.gofundme.com for the Summers.