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Fundraiser planned Tuesday for Bigelow Habitat project

Members of the Okabena Bees 4-H Club stand with Ron Hyvari (back, left) of Southwestern Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, Bigelow City Clerk Louise Edwards, Bigelow Mayor Stacie Golombiecki and Bigelow Councilman Terry Neugebauer. The 4-H'ers include Ava Vander Kooi (front, from left), Liv Vander Kooi, Vince Vander Kooi, Abigail Meester, Brayden Meester, Chloe Bents, Claire Hoffmann and Lane Hoffmann. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

BIGELOW — Southwestern Minnesota Habitat for Humanity (H4H) hopes to build its next home in Bigelow as early as next year, but the organization needs to raise money to make the project a reality.

To get the fundraising started, the Okabena Bees 4-H Club, which meets monthly in the Bigelow Fire Hall, will host a fundraising kick-off party from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday for Habitat for Humanity’s Bigelow project. The 4-H’ers will serve pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, chips, a cookie and a bottle of water — all for a free-will donation — inside the fire hall.

“It’s open to everyone,” said Colleen Bents, an adult volunteer with the Okabena Bees. “We really hope to get a big crowd. We’re looking for everyone to come and support and participate.”

JBS donated the pork and the club received a $250 grant from Thrivent to help cover other costs associated with the event, which allows all of the proceeds to go directly to Southwestern Minnesota H4H.

Ron Hyvari, executive director of Southwestern Minnesota H4H, said approximately $120,000 will need to be raised before construction can begin on a house. The amount does fluctuate based on the size of the family selected for the new home.

The Bigelow house will be constructed on land the city acquired following a tax forfeiture. The buildings on the site were cleared late last summer at a cost of $14,000. With the exception of a $2,500 contribution from Nobles County and $2,500 from the Worthington Regional Economic Development Authority, the city of Bigelow endured the expense.

Bringing in a new home — or perhaps two — on the site will be worth it in the long run.

“I think it was really a way for the city, too, to give back to the community and build up that sense of belonging in the community,” said Bigelow Mayor Stacie Golombiecki. “I think that’s why everybody got so excited about (this project).”

She sees the H4H project as a way to bring more families to Bigelow to keep the small town thriving.

“Anytime we get a new build or people move into (a house) that has been vacant, it helps the tax base and everything,” added Bigelow Councilman Terry Neugebauer.

Hyvari said that while initial plans are to build one home on the Bigelow lot, it’s a large enough space to build a second house if it becomes feasible. Southwestern Minnesota H4H encompasses Rock, Pipestone and Nobles counties, and a new home build usually rotates through each county. Currently, H4H is building a home in Edgerton.

“Our last two builds have been in towns of 500 (people),” Hyvari said. “We don’t want to forget about the smaller communities. A new house build is a great way to generate excitement in a community and maybe get even more movement in this direction.”

Hyvari said fundraisers like the one planned by the Okabena Bees are typically a great way to generate revenue and excitement for an H4H project.

“It’s not always money — it’s product, too,” he said, noting that in past builds, businesses have donated everything from lumber to concrete for basements and labor.

“We’re trying to get larger businesses around to donate,” Hyvari said. “It’s especially challenging in a smaller community like this because there’s just not enough people to generate that much money, so we’re hoping the outside communities will pitch in.”

Golombiecki said once a family has been selected for the H4H home planned for Bigelow, excitement in the community will build.

“I think that’s when we’re really going to see people step up and say, ‘Yeah, let’s do this,’”

said Chloe Bents, an officer in the Okabena Bees.

“It’s raising money for such a good cause and it really will help someone in need,” she said, adding that it’s likely the club will host an additional fundraiser or help in some capacity during the home’s construction.

“I think the Okabena Bees are committed to the city of Bigelow for providing a place for our club to meet at the fire hall,” said Colleen Bents. “This is a worthwhile project (and 4-H members) are all about community pride and community service — it’s a way they can serve the city of Bigelow and make an impact on the community.”

Rita Vander Kooi, who has three children in the 4-H club, said her kids have been wondering what a Habitat for Humanity house is.

“As they move forward and learn about it as a young kid, their interest grows,” she said. “Anytime you can witness as a kid people working together, it helps you develop.”

People unable to attend Tuesday’s fundraiser in Bigelow but want to donate toward the H4H project there may either drop off a monetary donation at the city office between 5 and 8 p.m. Tuesdays or Thursdays in the Bigelow Fire Hall, or mail a contribution to the City of Bigelow, ℅ Okabena Bees, P.O. Box 38, Bigelow MN 56117. Checks must be written to the Okabena Bees 4-H Club.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at farmbleat.areavoices.com.

(507) 376-7330
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