Helping people in needNan Rapp takes over as House of Manna director
Dickinson’s House of Manna doesn’t have a revolving door, but it could use one. Located at 1100 East Villard, it quickly fills with donated furniture, household goods and clothing; but just like a fire sale, the merchandise leaves about as fast as it arrives.
During the hours it is open, people arrive in cars, vans and pickups to either make a donation or to find something they could use back home.
Ensuring that everything runs smoothly, is the new House of Manna director, Nan Rapp of Dickinson.
Nan works with over 20 volunteers who sort, bag or display the clothing that’s donated. Other volunteers help load the furniture into trucks or carry boxes inside the building.
Rapp, who sells Avon as a business, started volunteering at House of Manna in October at the encouragement of her parents, Bud and Charlene Faller, who also volunteer.
Learning the previous manager Rhonda Hecker wanted to retire from the position, Rapp stepped forward in February.
“You almost have to be a volunteer to step into the position to know how it works,” she said. “You have to know the people who are needy, to help them out.”
Since becoming director, Rapp’s focus has been to keep everything clean and attractively displayed. She doesn’t hesitate to use a broom and mop stick or to restock shelves with dishes. To help with errands, she may call upon her husband, Skip, or daughter, Courtney and boyfriend.
House of Manna is a Christian nondenominational, non-profit charitable organization. It assists those in emergency situations — the loss of employment, a fire, breakup of a home, or numerous other situations.
The clientele includes the single parent with small children, grandma who is shopping for her grandchildren and students setting up an apartment.
House of Manna was started by Jean Stull 20 years ago. A fire destroyed a home in Dickinson and Stull responded with two car-loads of donated clothing for the family.
She founded House of Manna with a simple Biblical statement: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brothers, you have done it unto me.”
Today, the service area exceeds a 100-mile radius of Dickinson. The number of people served has risen to more than 20,000 people annually since 2005, according to a House of Manna report.
House of Manna sets out donation boxes for the clients to use after they have made their selections.
“They give whatever they can,” she said. “With the nicer furniture, I do ask for a small donation,” said Rapp.
To avoid any abuse of the system, House of Manna limits visits to once a week. The hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday (closed on public holidays.)
“They register and go their way. Wednesdays are usually slow, but Mondays and Fridays are just crazy. There are so many people out there,” she said.
House of Manna relies on donations to cover expenses. United Way pays for the rent and utilities, she said.
Nan greets people at the door and tries to match donations with requests.
“We always need pots and pans — the basics,” she said.
Special items such as dishes, bedding and quilts are stored away for the day when someone’s house is lost in a fire, she said.
Children’s clothing and extra-large sizes are especially needed. Donations should be clean and not torn — things you would wear yourself, she said.
She accepts small appliances such as microwaves, but she discourages donations of larger items like washers, dryers and refrigerators.
“We don’t know if they work — we have no way to test them,” she said.
She said the volunteers sort the clothing in the morning and help the clients in the afternoon.
“We could use more volunteers — we can always use men. They put out the furniture and go through the dishes. In the afternoon they help load,” she said.
When it comes to clothing, very little is discarded. Items that aren’t displayed are bagged and picked up by the Fallers. They sort through the clothing a second time — some is packaged for the Standing Rock Reservation through Queen of Peace Church or to the God’s Child Project in Guatemala. The newest destination is Sentinel Butte’s Home on the Range through the Eagles Club. Fabric suitable for quilting is given to area quilters. What remains is discarded as rags, said Rapp.
“Nothing really gets wasted unless it’s filthy. Everything gets utilized. Different businesses in town get the rags,” she said.
Long-time volunteer Mildred Heinle is counting her 18th year at House of Manna.
“I come sometimes three times a week, I’m trying to cut down to two days a week,” she said. “I enjoy meeting and working with the people.”
The Fallers have enjoyed working with previous directors, Gary and Betty Jordan and Rhonda Hecker.
“It’s a good service to the community. It keeps you occupied,” said Bud Faller.
They sort the donations in their garage.
“Anything that makes rags is set aside. There’s so much demand by body shops, carpenters and mechanics,” he added.
The House of Manna board of directors provides leadership and willing hands.
“We operate very much like a standard board. We only have one paid staff person (Rapp), so by default it becomes like a working board, said board President Chris Johnson.
He expressed his appreciation to Hecker for her tenure as manager.
“Rhonda was very hardworking. Her heart was very much into it for many years and the board thanks her. She continues to volunteer for the organization,” said Johnson.
“Nan has been great. She jumped into the really deep end of this. She’s there almost every day of the week — she’s there on weekends. She’s really taken the approach to clean up and organize things,” she said.
Johnson and several other volunteers rotate weekends to take donations dropped off by the door. He is amazed at the rapid turn-around of merchandise — from when mattresses are stacked on top of sofas because of lack of space, to the next day when the room is empty again.
“Plus, I’m amazed by the longevity of volunteers. They come here week after week, day after day. It’s touching,” he said.
He remains involved because of House of Manna’s mission: To provide people in need with donated items to help them improve their quality of life.
“You have people who lose their homes in fires, domestic violence victims who need to relocate quickly. You have foreign exchange students who don’t bring blankets or coats. You have lower-income families with young kids,” he said.
On the other hand, he said it’s a great opportunity for the community to donate items that would, otherwise, end up in the landfill.
“House of Manna gives everybody a chance to give back,” he said.
For more information, call 701-483-5733.