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Northwoods Habitat: Online contest provides Toyota Tundra to home-focused nonprofit

BEMIDJI - An area nonprofit that builds homes for families and serves low-income homeowners won a national Toyota giveaway contest Tuesday.

Northwoods Habitat for Humanity, which serves Beltrami and Clearwater counties, was the Day 86 winner in the 100 Cars for Good campaign sponsored by Toyota, according to the contest website.

The prize is subject to verification and formal paperwork.

"It solidifies our belief that people believe in our mission and support us," said Geri Hickerson, Northwoods Habitat for Humanity's executive director. "I'm a little overwhelmed by the support."

Hickerson said Northwoods Habitat will receive a Toyota Tundra pickup to replace a

1978 Ford Conversion van donated to the nonprofit a few years ago.

While the van has been useful, she said it was near the end of its roadworthiness.

"Our van is literally falling apart," she said.

The nonprofit was one of five across the country competing through voting on the website Tuesday.

The contest allows voters to decide which nonprofits will receive 100 Toyota vehicles. A separate winner is selected each day.

Hickerson said word of Northwoods Habitat's contest submission spread quickly as Bemidji-area residents solicited friends and family from around the country to cast votes online.

Northwoods Habitat staff is grateful for the support, she said.

For the contest, nonprofits provided videos, details about the organization and why a new vehicle is needed. Website visitors then cast a vote for a nonprofit each day. Winners can select from one of six Toyota models.

On the website, Northwoods Habitat described its mission, stating it builds homes which are sold to partner families with a zero interest loan. It was founded in 1990.

The nonprofit also serves low-income homeowners through its A Brush With Kindness program, helping seniors and low-income families with exterior maintenance, accessible ramps, and yard work so they can live with dignity in their homes.

"As our ReStore continues to grow, more and more individuals and businesses are asking that donations of material be picked up as they have no way to transport items," Northwoods Habitat said on the contest website. "Many donations have been lost due to our inability to secure such items...

"We do own a utility trailer, and rely heavily on volunteers to use their own vehicles to secure donations. This vehicle will help us exponentially increase the number of donations we are able to secure, and, ultimately, allow us to continue to increase our revenues and home building efforts."

Hickerson said she's awaiting final confirmation from the contest organizers, but expects the vehicle may arrive in the next two to three weeks.

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

(701) 780-1104