Angels at work in Kidder County
The angels in Kidder County, N.D., may not have fluffy white wings or glowing halos, but they do help people around them.
“It isn’t just the six people on the board that are the angels. It’s everybody that’s helped make a fundraiser good, it’s every one of the people that attended the fundraisers,” said Robin Rewald of Pettibone, chairman of the board of directors for the Angels.
Each woman on the board represents a community in Kidder County — Julie Peterson of Robinson, Karen Kleppe of Dawson, Rhonda Binder of Steele, Judy Landenberger of Tuttle, Peggy Erickson of Tappen and Rewald.
About once a month, the group meets and goes through applications for the vouchers, which will pay for $75 of gas at gas stations within Kidder County.
Any resident of Kidder County with a chronic illness can get a voucher, and there are no income eligibility requirements, Peterson said. People can get the vouchers up to twice a year, and the person who is ill doesn’t have to be the one to fill out the application, either — others can do it for them.
“A lot of people don’t want (to ask), they have too much pride to ask,” Peterson said.
The project grew out of the county’s old Relay for Life event, which raised money for cancer research and cancer patients.
“Interest went down. A lot of people didn’t know where their money was going. Even though their money was being put to very, very good use, they couldn’t always see it,” Rewald said.
And over a few years, the Relay got smaller, and then stopped.
“We thought people would do more if we know the money would stay in our community,” Peterson said. “The Relay is for cancer patients — we see a lot of cancer in our area — but we wanted to do it for any chronic illness.”
People who have received the vouchers include those coping with surgeries or involved in a vehicle accident, as well as those suffering from cancer or diabetes.
The money that pays for the vouchers comes from Kidder County residents themselves.
Each of the six members of the board has a fundraiser in her own town — a dinner, a singalong, a silent auction. But there are also personal donations and donations from businesses.
“And some people just walk in and give $100,” Peterson said. “People are awesome.”
The response has been tremendous, Rewald said.
“It just makes you feel good that it relieved somebody’s stress for just a few minutes when they’re already having such a tough time,” Rewald added. “And that’s a good thing.”
For Peterson, involvement in the Angels is just paying back the community for its help when her husband, Keith, was stricken with esophageal cancer in 2009.
The illness began with heartburn and trouble swallowing, but two years and one month later, the cancer took his life when he was just 51.
His treatment had been at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the Petersons were forced to go back and forth between home and Minnesota dozens of times. Even though Keith’s income was good and he had health insurance, bills for gas, lodging and food added up quickly.
“We had filled out applications for gas vouchers at Mayo, and they were long, and lengthy, and (required) W-2s, and God, they were a nightmare,” Peterson recalled.
That’s why the Kidder County Angels form is simple, requiring only name, address, the reason for the request and signatures of two people who know about the medical issues, such as a doctor, minister or friend.
“It’s very simple, very very simple,” Peterson said. “We didn’t care what people made.”
The vouchers also help remind people that the community is there for them, she added.
Peterson hopes that the Kidder County project will spur people in other communities to create similar programs.
Rewald emphasized that the real Kidder County Angels are those helping out with the project.
“You don’t want anybody to think you specifically (the board members) are doing it, because you’re not,” Rewald said. “It’s everybody. Every single person is an angel.”
For more information or to donate to the project, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-220-4588.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by email at email@example.com