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Village of Hope shelter urgently seeks donations after extensive flooding

Bemidji’s Village of Hope, an emergency shelter for families, flooded on Friday, Dec. 9, leading to extensive damage. The organization is now urgently seeking donations.

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Dryers are set up in a hallway at Village of Hope on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — As a challenging end to her first two weeks on the job, Village of Hope’s new executive director, Michelle Raiter, is managing a crisis after the building flooded last Friday leading to extensive damage.

On the afternoon of Dec. 9, a sprinkler pipe burst, flooding all three floors of the building, which serves as an emergency shelter for families in crisis.

“I’ve never seen so much water,” Raiter said. “We had about two to three inches of water on all three floors. It’s extensive.”

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Village of Hope recently welcomed Michelle Raiter as its new executive director.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Three families that had been staying at the shelter have been placed in a hotel, and Raiter and Village of Hope shared the need for urgent donations to help cover the cost of damages and repairs.

“We put the residents into a hotel room, and we’re going to be shut down for about three months,” Raiter said. “They have to take out the walls, ceilings, floors, everything.”

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Without a building that’s safe for residents to stay in, Raiter explained that Village of Hope won’t be able to accept any additional families.

“We need donations really badly to help us get back so we can be operating and help our families again,” Raiter shared. “Anything helps.”

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Dryers are set up in a Village of Hope hallway on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

While at this point there isn’t a formal donation goal, Raiter explained that with the extent of the damage the costs will likely be high and that monetary donations are desperately needed.

“We’ve got probably 30 or more dryers trying to dry the place out right now, and they’ve been running since Friday nonstop,” Raiter said, “so we’re going to have a huge electric bill, too.”

All of this comes just two weeks after Raiter took on the position as executive director at Village of Hope, after the recent retirement of long-time director Sandy Hennum.

“I started the 29th (of November), and the first two weeks were training with Sandy,” Raiter said.

Prior to her new job, Raiter worked with Stellar Human Services, an organization that provides mental health services for children and families.

“For the past 20-plus years I’ve been working in mental health,” she said. “I also worked for Support Within Reach as a supervisor there, and I really enjoyed the nonprofit sector.”

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When the position at Village of Hope opened up, Raiter thought it would be a natural fit for her interests and skills.

“I said, 'You know what, I’m going to try this' and then I got the job,” she shared, “I’ve felt so blessed to have this opportunity and to give back to the community.”

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Village of Hope is located at 525 Mississippi Ave. NW in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Raiter added that before the current crisis occurred, she had been adjusting to her new position naturally, and progress had been smooth.

“Before all of this it was going great,” Raiter said with a laugh. “Now with the flooding, it’s really been baptism by fire.”

Anyone interested in donating to Village of Hope can find information on the organization’s website. At this time, Raiter explained that Village of Hope is only able to accept monetary donations since there is no space for material gifts.

“We truly feel like every donation is such a blessing,” she shared. “We want very much to be able to continue to serve the community, and we look forward to helping as many families as we possibly can.”

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Dryers are set up in a hallway at Village of Hope on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: HOMELESSNESS
Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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