WATFORD CITY, NORTH DAKOTA – The line was long but people in the Watford City were willing to wait to get a warm winter coat. Jim and Kathie Konsor, Bakken Oil Rush Ministry missionaries, and twelve volunteers gave away 470 coats last week. Last year at the same event 90 coats were given away.
Photo: Kathie Konsor, Bakken Oil Rush Ministry missionary is all set up for the coat give away at Cashwise Foods in Watford City, ND. Photo by Jim Konsor.
Jim Konsor described the event. “It was unbelievable. There are so many grateful individuals and families. We had terrific volunteer help today...at times 12 volunteers were helping folks find the coats they needed. It was a super great day!!”
The Konsors operate a Free Mobile Thrift Store. The Mobile Thrift Store is a long toy hauler that has been remade. The interior of the trailer has shelves, racks and places for hanging items.
Why give coats away to people in the Bakken?
North Dakota has attracted thousands from across the United States and abroad, as oil companies set up hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations that extract tens of billions of dollars' worth of oil and gas from the Bakken shale.
Stories of $300 signing bonuses for fast-food workers and gas station attendants who make $50,000 per year are attracting people to the state at a time when the official unemployment rate in the rest of the country is still hovering at 6 percent. North Dakota's unemployment rate is just over 2 percent. $50,000 sounds great however, not everyone finds a job, and few families can make it on that income or find a place to live.
There is a housing affordability crisis. North Dakota saw a 200 percent jump in homelessness in 2013, the biggest increase of any state. There are now 2,069 homeless people in the state of 699,628, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That translates into 28.6 homeless people per 10,000. The national average is 19.
The population of Watford City, North Dakota has more than doubled, to an estimated 13,000 in 2013, from 5,000 in 2010, according to estimates by North Dakota State University. The number of homeless in the area is 986, according to estimates.
Rents have skyrocketed. One-bedroom apartments, which cost $500 per month a few years ago, are over $2,000 per month. The waiting lists for apartment houses and RV spaces are long. People are renting out rooms in their homes for as much as $1,000. Starter houses cost $300,000 or more to buy.
There are no homeless shelters in Watford City, and the surrounding communities. The municipalities do not have the resources to cope with the new homeless population.
Preparing for winter
Winters in North Dakota can be pretty cold. Many people who arrive are not prepared. One item that everyone needs is a good winter coat.
Jim and Kathie Konsor, along with volunteers, planned a winter coat give away to help folks prepare for the winter. The coat give away took place in the parking lot of Cashwise Foods from 2 to 8 p.m. Men’s coats were set outside on four racks. Women’s and children’s coats were available inside the Mobile Thrift Store.
The area around the Mobile Thrift Center was roped off. This allowed for people to have one entrance point and register. Twelve volunteers assisted by hanging coats, registering people, and helping people find the coats they needed.
“We had 30 plus people lined up to register before we even began,” stated Konsor.
Photo: The line was long at the coat give away in Watford City. Over 30 people were in line when the event started at Cashwise Foods. Photo by Jim Konsor, Bakken Oil Rush Ministry.
After each person registered a volunteer walked him or her through to find the coats they needed. This allowed each person to have one coat.
Kathie Konsor noted, “Interesting fact is that only about 30 were people who had previously been through the thrift trailer came for a coat. The rest were all first time folks. The last hour we were open, from 7 to 8, was almost all guys who had just gotten done working.”
How did people find out about the Mobile Thrift Center and the coat give away? The local newspaper did a article about the ministry the week before the event. The Konsors also placed notifications on four sandwich board signs, the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry web page, Facebook page, plus three other groups shared the event on their Facebook pages. Posters were made and placed up all over town. Fliers were handed out at the food pantry and the elementary school.
Jim and Kathie Konsor want to grow the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry in Watford City. They continue to build relationships with the community and reach out to those who are arriving.
The Free Mobile Thrift Center brings hope and serves those in need. Winter and extremely cold weather is fast approaching in northwest North Dakota. However supplies are running short.
Photo: A family of three were happy to recieve winter coats at the Bakken Oil Ministry coat give away in Watford City. Photo by Jim Konsor.
“They cleaned us out of men’s coats. We basically have no men’s coats large and up. We are in serious need of men’s coats,” said the Konsors.
There is also a need more kids coats. Only 15 coats for children remain and the entire winter season remains.
If you would like to donate coats or funds for supplies for the Bakken Oil Rush Ministry contact the Konsors by e-mail or phone (605) 268-0058.