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Germans from Russia grateful for donations

By Staff | Oct 11, 2019

Sue Sitter/PCT Heart of America Germans from Russia members Mary Schmaltz (left) and Sue Blessum accept a $5,000 donation from Pete Burgard of Merchants Bank for their organization.

The Rugby branch of Merchants Bank presented two representatives from the Heart of America Germans from Russia with a $5,000 check Tuesday.

The representatives, Sue Blessum and Mary Schmaltz told the Tribune the organization was “very grateful” for the donation.

The Merchants Bank check comes as the result of fundraising efforts by Blessum, Schmaltz and other HOA Germans from Russia members.

Blessum and Schmaltz said they had approached the bank and other businesses over the past three weeks to introduce them to HOA Germans from Russia and the society’s efforts to preserve local history, which has strong ties to German settlers who immigrated to North Dakota from Russia more than a century ago.

Schmaltz said the group “had a form called a donor request that gave a little history of what we’re doing and what our goals were, and then (Merchants Bank) called us back. They said they would present it to their board,” Schmaltz said.

“Craig Johnson (of Merchants Bank) called me yesterday and he had Donna Hager (also of the bank) on a conference call, and he said come down tomorrow afternoon, and we would get a check from (bank officer) Pete Burgard,” Blessum said.

“We want it to be known that we really appreciate (the donations), because we’ve gotten some individual donors, and now we’re starting to get some donations from businesses,” Schmaltz said.

HOA Germans from Russia President Monica Houim told the Tribune in a phone interview the group has received several recent donations. Donors include the Rugby Eagles and the Daryl Kuhnhenn Memorial Ride.

“We’ve had some larger donations come from families, too,” Houim noted.

Funds raised will pay for work on the new HOA Germans from Russia building at Rugby’s Prairie Village Museum.

“We need to update our exhibits; get all those taken care of, and we’re working on signage; things like that,” Houim noted.

Houim said the money would also go toward paying off “a small construction loan on the building that we took out, and we’re paying that off right now.”

The new building replaces one that housed artifacts from local settlers for years. The older building began showing signs of damage and the museum decided to demolish it six years ago.

The artifacts are now stored in a small room adjacent to the main museum building.

“It had to be (taken down),” Schmaltz said of the building. “And there are other buildings where there’s a need, and our Prairie Village Museum is a really neat place out there, but it needs funds; it needs volunteers, it needs people to help keep it going.”

“So (the fundraising) is a very good thing,” Schmaltz added.

Houim said the group hoped the building would eventually have heating and air conditioning systems to allow for use throughout the year.

“We’ve got lots of ideas floating around for what we want to do,” Houim said of the building and group.

“We’re hoping to have at least one major fundraiser a year. We’re still working on details and getting membership people to join so we can have more workers and volunteers,” Houim added.

More information for those seeking to help or donate to HOA Germans from Russia is available online by searching Heart of America Germans from Russia on Facebook or by calling Houim at (701) 208-0461.

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