One day, a woman walked in the door of an old Dickinson building at 46 First Ave. - the Lariat Cafe at one time, now for years the Sunset Senior Center - and started saying things that floored the older people there.
Things about the floor.
And about the kitchen, bathroom and other places.
She asked what was needed there. When she found out the center’s dingy linoleum floor hadn’t been professionally stripped and polished for years, and that the kitchen and bathroom needed updates, she wanted to help see that those things were done - at no charge to the center.
She later said people she spoke to just couldn’t believe someone would do that and not charge them.
Bernadette Boucher, president of the senior center, said in her years there, that hasn’t ever happened - some individual walking into the center and offering to help for free.
“Never,” echoed another board member.
But they did know who she was. She was a restaurant owner who sometimes stopped by with free baked goods for members to enjoy during their card games.
However, they didn’t know she was one of two founders of a new non-profit organization, which is, as a mission, helping wherever help is needed in Dickinson and surrounding area.
So if the senior center needs something, or another organization or group or individual has needs, little or big, there would be help.
It has been an effort done anonymously as much as possible, and they still want it that way - going so far as refusing to have their picture taken for this story.
But the two Dickinson women said in recent interviews that they’ve also realized that to get more volunteers and financial help, there has to be some recognition of what this is - and that it’s a legitimate organization.
So, pull the curtains.
The organization's founders are Laurie Willett, project manager for Scull Construction Co., and Brenda Schumacher, owner of Stix N’ Twigs cafe.
The name of their 501(c)3 nonprofit is An Unfinished Story, officially established in 2014 and registered with the North Dakota secretary of state’s office. And it is in good standing, according to the secretary of state’s website.
The nature of this nonprofit corporation is to “raise/furnish monetary funds/essential supplies to needy,” according to information on the state’s website.
Schumacher said they needed to establish a nonprofit corporation instead of continuing to do things informally in case, in this litigious society, an accident or injury happened - such as if someone slipped on a floor they scrubbed, for example.
Willett said she named the organization An Unfinished Story because “everyone is an unfinished story, plain and simple as that.”
Willett is the nonprofit’s president. Schumacher is vice president, and Staci Weller, a stay-at-home mom with an education in interior design, is their treasurer. They are still looking for more board members and more help.
Schumacher said they are developing a list of volunteers who can be called on when their expertise is needed. Most don’t need a plaque or name recognition; they just want to help.
“We want to be like disappearing angels,” Willett said. “Drop in, dropping a little (stardust), and then disappear.”
She said An Unfinished Story won’t have one focus. The nonprofit at one point was involved in helping a local teacher fulfill the needs of some students who didn’t have enough food, clothes and other needs. And the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center in Dickinson has also received some monetary help.
But the current project is the senior center. Boucher said Schumacher has already been able to find lower-than-expected prices for improvements the senior center needed in the kitchen and bathroom - paper dispensers and such - and found people to install them for free.
“It’s wonderful,” Boucher said.
Willett said when the nonprofit had no money at all - it currently has $2,500 in the bank - she at one point took on a part-time job at a retail shop to change that.
But she is finding that friends and business associates are there to help when asked.
Recently, she put the word out to business associates, friends and neighbors about the senior center’s floor project. She said within two weeks she had collected $2,200 in donations.
The senior center board, which had wanted to improve the floor for awhile, had in the past received bids in the area of $1,500 for the floor work.
But Willett works with someone who is planning to do it for $700 this weekend, on his days off.
An Unfinished Story will pay that and for the needed chemicals, and a local company is supplying the equipment. What’s left of the $2,200 will also go to senior center needs.
And it turns out that the senior center is going to benefit even more.
Willett said the head of a plumbing and heating company, after hearing about the senior center, offered to do what he already does in Wyoming where his company also has a division. He wants to adopt the senior center - providing them with a free annual maintenance.
So if, for example, a toilet or kitchen faucet needs to be repaired or replaced, he’ll do that for free.
Boucher said the senior center - which has about 130 members, mostly in their 80s - sometimes breaks even and sometimes not.
“It’s an old building,” she said. “(Unexpected repairs) come up.”
They get an annual grant from the city and some money from Elder Care for being the location where hot lunches for seniors are served. Also, the center charges for participation in card games, but half of that goes for prize money.
Otherwise, the center depends on donations, including the proceeds from an annual pancake breakfast put on by Dickinson Fire Department.
Willett said she started An Unfinished Story because when her family was going through tough financial times, doors opened and for that - employment and other opportunities in Dickinson - she gives God credit. In thanks, she made a promise to God to help wherever she was needed.
Willert said she hopes when she retires from her construction career, she will do this full-time and that An Unfinished Story will have enough funds to take care of any and all needs in the area.
No matter how small.
Schumacher is watching. She noticed recently how Jan Becker, of Richardton, an older diminutive person who comes to the Sunset Senior Center once a week to do janitorial work, struggled with the center’s “huge, tall mop.” Schumacher asked if a smaller mop would help.
She got the answer she thought she would get, and help is on the way.
For more information about volunteering, call Schumacher at 701-483-7849.