The MDU Resources Foundation recently awarded 22 scholarships worth $2,000 each to students who are family members of employees from across MDU Resources Group’s companies.
This year’s recipients are featured below.
The Employee Scholarship Program is awarded annually to children, grandchildren and spouses of eligible employees. Up to 30 scholarships in the amount of $2,000 are awarded each year. Since 1987, the foundation has awarded more than $1.13 million in scholarships to family members of MDU Resources employees.
While the foundation funds and determines the criteria for awarding the scholarships, it hires Scholarship America to select the winners.
Scholarship recipients are selected based on:
Academic excellence, including class rank, test scores and grade-point average;
Participation in school and community activities;
A written statement of their career goals.
Recipients of the 2023 Employee Scholarship Program
Ryan Muecke, a senior area representative in the Worland District for WBI Energy, was heading home from work recently when his sharp observation skills and instinct to stop may have saved the life of a teenage boy.
While Muecke was driving down a county road, he spotted the tire of an all-terrain vehicle sticking up out of a ditch. He slowed as he got closer and could see hands waving from under an overturned four-wheeler.
“I pulled safely off the road as quickly as I could and ran over to find a teenage kid with his leg pinned under the four-wheeler,” Muecke said. “He was not bleeding and didn’t appear hurt, but his leg was pinned and he couldn’t get out from under the machine.”
Muecke asked the boy if it was OK for him to try rolling the four-wheeler up enough for him to try to get out from under it. When the boy said it was, Muecke was able to lift it and the teen scrambled out.
Muecke said that after making sure the boy was OK and able to walk, the teen helped Muecke push the four-wheeler back onto its wheels. Another truck pulled up at that point, and the other driver also helped push the four-wheeler out of the ditch.
Muecke noted that the accident happened because the boy had a poorly secured load on his four-wheeler — a tank sprayer for spraying weeds. When a strap holding the tank came loose, it caught the front wheel and caused the ATV to flip down the steep embankment.
“I’m glad I was there to help, and that everything turned out OK. It could have been a lot worse if that ditch had been full of water or the tank had come loose and landed on him, or if fuel from the ATV had spilled,” Muecke said. “It was a good reminder to always make sure equipment is secured properly.”
For his actions that day, Liberty Mutual honored Muecke with the Life Saver Award “for outstanding courage and humanity.”
More than 40 Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota, employees volunteered during their lunch hour to serve meals for the Summer Hunger lunch program.
The MSA United Way and Bismarck Public Schools partner to provide free, hot meals to children under age 18 at 11 sites throughout Bismarck. Volunteers are instrumental in getting the meals to the mouths of hungry kids.
The employees adopted two of the 11 sites throughout Bismarck to serve meals Monday through Friday. Each of those days, from June through mid-July, two employees at each site served meals, and many employees were repeat volunteers during the six weeks.
Kellie Erhardt, internal auditing director at MDU Resources, led the efforts on behalf of the company. She served as the liaison between United Way, recruited volunteers and managed all coordination efforts.
“Volunteer time and energy are invaluable to this program to help achieve its goals and serve our community,” Erhardt said. “It’s so amazing to see how our employees are quick to help, and some even included their families in this volunteer opportunity.”
In her role at MDU Resources, Nikki provides support to the CEO and board of directors of the region’s largest publicly traded company. She is a trustworthy team player who, no matter how busy she is, maintains her professional and friendly composure and makes it all look easy!
Ferderer joined MDU Resources in 2008 and was promoted to her current role in 2016.
Read more about Ferderer and the other professionals recognized at https://issuu.com/bismarckmandanchamberconnection/docs/08chamberedc_connissuu_ae6fac43132d83
Cakes and birthdays go hand in hand. But for families struggling to make ends meet, a birthday cake and celebration can bring added financial stress.
In honor of America’s birthday, July Fourth, employees in WBI Energy’s Bismarck, North Dakota, office created Caring Cake Kits to help struggling families celebrate their loved ones’ birthdays.
Patty Fillion, administrative assistant at WBI Energy, rallied her co-workers around this initiative. Payroll teams from MDU Resources and Knife River, which are both located in WBI’s building, also participated.
Employees donated enough supplies to create 42 kits. Each Caring Cake Kit includes:
A nine by 13-inch disposable aluminum cake pan.
A can of Sprite, which can be used in place of eggs and oil in a cake mix.
Inspired by personal experience
Caring Cake Kits is the brainchild of Kelly Allen, co-founder of K&R Designs. It was inspired by her own experience during a time of financial hardship.
When her husband lost his job during the pandemic, they couldn’t afford a cake for their child’s birthday. It was also during this time when they became familiar with the Dream Center, as they used its services, including the food pantry.
The Caring Cake Kits initiative is one way the Allen family pays it forward and helps others in need. They partnered with the Dream Center, which distributes the kits through its food pantry. This ensures families in need never miss a birthday celebration.
About the Dream Center Bismarck
The Dream Center Bismarck is a nonprofit center dedicated to serving low-income and struggling families, children, elderly, disabled, veterans and individuals in the Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota area.
Bismarck-Mandan employees and family members volunteered at the annual Rebuilding Together event in the community. Over two weekends, a total of 21 employees representing MDU Resources and Montana-Dakota Utilities shared their time and talents to fix and improve various items at two homes.
MDU Resources employees Shane Wothe, manager of enterprise endpoints and technical services, and Mark Haag, manager of project Maximo and process improvement, served as house captains.
Rainy weather didn’t stop the team during the first weekend
During the first weekend, volunteers made repairs to the home of an elderly disabled person. The largest part of the project was to relevel the front porch and rebuild the existing set of entry stairs, which were falling apart and creating a safety hazard for the homeowner. Smaller repairs done by the team ranged from repairing window screens to replacing flooring to caulking windows and many other tasks.
Cold, rainy weather on the first day did not hinder the volunteers’ dedication or efforts.
“I’m so grateful that the volunteers did not let the rain stop them from completing our work,” Wothe said.
Second weekend aided by multi-day volunteers and sunshine
The next weekend brought about warmer weather for volunteers, who had a long to-do list to tackle at the second house. The tasks included lawn/yard care, painting walls and cabinetry, replacing flooring and subflooring and much more.
Haag said the volunteers for the second house worked hard and tackled the large to-do list, as well as unforeseen repairs that needed to be made to the home.
“Many of the volunteers from MDU Resources and Montana-Dakota were multi-day helpers,” Haag said. “Shane and I would like to thank them for sticking with it and pushing through to the end.”
Rebuilding Together of Bismarck-Mandan is a nonprofit that helps elderly and disabled low-income homeowners stay warm, safe and dry by making essential repairs to their homes.
While many businesses are attempting to bring employees back to the office, MDU Utilities Group has embraced remote work as a solution to recruitment and retention challenges for customer service positions.
In fact, Jennifer Correia and Angie Robertson, both customer service supervisors with the utility group, are leading the way within the utility industry on embracing and implementing a successful remote work strategy.
The supervisor duo recently shared their expertise with remote work by presenting at the Western Energy Institute’s Customer + Corporate Symposium. The topic caught the attention of many conference attendees, resulting in a standing-room-only crowd and the largest number of attendees at any breakout session.
Correia and Robertson said they wanted to share their success with hiring remote staff because utilities are losing employees due to employers’ return-to-office requirements, which makes the already difficult task of recruiting and retaining employees for inbound customer service roles even more challenging.
“We want our fellow utility companies to know that remote work can be successful, and we want to help make a shift in other companies,” Correia said.
“Many who attended our presentation found it mind blowing that this works,” Robertson added.
Telecommuting and generations at work
In their presentation, Correia and Robertson shared their strategy with using remote staff, as well as the importance of understanding the different generations in the workforce. Both topics tie into employee recruitment, retention, engagement and development.
“For the first time, the national workforce consists of five generations, and the Utility Group’s customer service team is a perfect example of this,” Robertson noted. “Our team includes employees as young as 19 years old, up to 73 years old.”
A third point Robertson and Correia also emphasized was the importance of support from leadership.
“We wouldn’t be as successful as we are without the support from our leaders,” Correia noted.
Due to the popularity of their presentation at the Customer + Corporate Symposium, WEI asked Correia and Robertson to write an article based on their presentation. It was featured in the association’s spring magazine.
About their team
Correia and Robertson manage their team of nine customer service team leads and 98 customer service representatives. There is a small staff who work from offices in Boise, Idaho, and Bismarck, North Dakota. The remaining employees work remotely from locations spanning the Utilities’ local service territories.
Support from the Utility Group’s local offices has been instrumental in helping build a culture and connection with remote customer service representatives and the company. Correia and Robertson introduce remote employees to the Utility Group’s nearest local office. After that, remote employees are invited to that office for safety meetings, United Way luncheons and other employee activities.
MDU Utilities Group is a subsidiary of MDU Resources.
WBI Energy employees in Glendive, Montana, recently helped prepare a nearby fishing pond and swimming area for upcoming summer visitors. Hollecker Lake near Glendive is a community fishing pond that features a public beach area for swimming and relaxing in the sun.
“Hollecker Lake is a great place to take the entire family to fish and swim, and is very popular in the summer,” Dave Linn, WBI Energy senior engineering and project manager, said.
WBI Energy helped the local Walleyes Unlimited chapter meet the grants’ matching funds requirement by providing heavy equipment and equipment operators. This in-kind donation was used to repair erosion along the lake’s shoreline and add more sand to enhance the beach area.
“WBI Energy has many employees who are members of Walleyes Unlimited,” Linn said. “These members very much appreciate the company’s support for our local chapter and for helping us meet the grants’ local matching funds requirement.”
Advocating for other employees and their career growth. Having a positive attitude. Coordinating events that foster camaraderie. These are a few examples of how four employees within the MDU Resources family of companies help create a positive work environment.
For their efforts, they were each honored with the Summit Award. This annual corporate award recognizes employees who make the company a better place to work. Each winner receives a cash price, plus $1,000 is given to a qualified charity of the winner’s choice.
MDU Resources annually honors employees who make outstanding contributions to its family of companies and the communities it serves. Four award categories recognize spirit (community and workplace), skill and stewardship.
The individual who nominated Paul noted his amazing attitude and attention to detail.
Paul is “always willing to help anyone else in need, no matter what the situation,” his nominator said. As a trainer, Paul continues to carry forth that positive attitude and assistance with the employees working under him.
Paul’s nominator noted, “Knife River is lucky to have him as a loyal and dedicated employee. He, and many like him, make this a great place to be.”
Mike Davis Superintendent, Bombard Electric Las Vegas, Nevada Selected charity: Project 150
Mike has been working for Bombard Electric since 1989. His expertise, knowledge and character contribute to making Bombard Electric a great place to work.
He is currently running multiple jobs, including a solar project with 50+ employees and more than 350 employees at Las Vegas’ most unique project of all time: the MSG Sphere.
Mike is open minded and accepting, willing to support and mentor anyone who is motivated and wants to work hard.
MSG Sphere has a large percentage of female employees. Mike takes seriously his role in advocating for them on the job and encouraging their career growth.
Bombard works with some very large general contractors across the country, thanks in part to Mike’s expertise in the field and his working relationships.
Patty Fillion Human resources administrative assistant, WBI Energy Bismarck, North Dakota Selected charity: Dream Center Bismarck
With responsibilities for the front desk area, Patty greets all visitors and co-workers that pass her desk with a hearty hello and has befriended everyone from the Pepsi man to the UPS lady.
She also is one of the first points of contact for new hires across WBI Energy. Her nominator said Patty’s “enthusiasm and pride for working here is shared with candidates immediately, and I can’t think of a better way to introduce new hires to what a great place to work this truly is!”
Patty is quick to recognize achievements of others, gives great constructive feedback (in all directions), pitches in and helps whenever she is asked or sees a need and freely shows gratitude to all that are deserving. She advocates for those in need and serves as an informal mentor to many that cross her path, both personally and professionally, sharing insightful words of wisdom and advice.
Feedback from her co-workers include, “Patty is one of the most selfless and kind-hearted people I have come to meet. She takes things that are already beautiful and makes them extraordinary. Her personality makes everything around her shine. She’s the type of person that I aspire to be when I grow up.”
Amy goes above and beyond to make MDU Resources a great place to work. For 18 years, she has organized a successful employee volleyball tournament. Her commitment to this annual event is grounded in her drive to encourage and support camaraderie, build relationships among employees and their families, and ensure that MDU Resources has a positive atmosphere.
Amy inspires a positive workplace in her department and with everyone she works with throughout the corporation. She has a professional “can do” attitude, an impeccable work ethic and a steady willingness to help others. Her co-workers see her not only as a leader, but also as a mentor with her extensive knowledge of the company.
Amy recognizes the need to give back to our community and leverages the opportunity to build team camaraderie. Throughout her 20 years with the company, Amy has volunteered with the local United Way for its Day of Caring and summer lunch program and has been the company liaison with the nonprofit to coordinate employee volunteer activities like the Backpack Program. If there’s a volunteer program and she’s available, she’s the first person to sign up. Her giving spirit is on full display during the holiday season, as she leads her team’s effort to shop and wrap gifts for their participation in Abused Adult Resource Center’s Hope for the Holidays program.
Four employees within the MDU Resources family of companies recently received the Community Spirit Award for 2022. This annual corporate award recognizes employees’ volunteerism and community involvement. Each winner receives a cash prize, plus $1,000 is given to a qualified charity of the winner’s choice.
Each year, MDU Resources honors employees who make outstanding contributions to our family of companies and the communities we serve. Four award categories recognize spirit (community and work), skill and stewardship.
2022 Community Spirit Award winners
Rob Jongsma Vice president and general manager of Knife River Materials Casper, Wyoming
Rob has continuously supported Natrona County 4-H and its youth participants. One of the biggest learning opportunities for 4-H youth is learning how to raise, care for and show a farm animal such as a cow or pig. Rob has purchased livestock from 4-H youth and has donated the meat to two local non-profits: Natrona County Meals on Wheels and IReach2. Rob’s donation to Meals on Wheels helps provide up to 500 meals to the community’s homebound, handicapped and convalescent adults. The meat donation to IReach2, a progressive care facility for adults with developmental disabilities and brain injuries, helps feed its participants.
Shirley Messerle Senior project administrator with OEG Mid-Valley Eugene, Oregon
Shirley believes in finding ways to provide for those in need and has found a way to stretch the efforts of one by involving many. She coordinates OEG’s community service through an organization called Bags of Love, whose mission is “Helping Children in Crisis One Bag of Love at a Time.”
Shirley introduced Bags of Love to the OEG team to collect necessities and comfort items for children in crisis due to neglect, abuse, poverty or homelessness. She even set up a donation point in OEG’s Mid-Valley office, making it convenient for OEG employees to donate. She also arranged a business partnership between OEG and Bags of Love; OEG is listed on the organization’s website as a convenient drop-off location.
Shirley also has a long history of coordinating Lane County Food Bank volunteer opportunities with the OEG team – since before she began employment with OEG.
Terry Hood Warehouse person, WBI Energy Glendive, Montana
Thanks to the efforts of Terry Hood and his family, the community of Glendive, Montana, glows with holiday spirit. For seven months of the year, Terry builds, maintains and refurbishes all 80 of the Christmas decorations that adorn the downtown light poles during the holiday season.
With help from his family, they also decorate the Gazebo Park and BNSF Park with ground mount holiday light displays. Terry makes sure other holidays get their share of attention, too, by changing all the light bulbs in the park lanterns to the respective color of each holiday like St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and the Fourth of July.
Terry’s attention to Gazebo Park and BNSF Park is a year-round effort. He and his family regularly pull weeds, pick up garbage, and maintain the gazebo with regular upkeep and staining.
His community efforts don’t end there. Terry is the president of the Red Devil Booster Club, which raises money to support junior high and high school athletics. He’s also a retired volunteer firefighter, has coached and umpired baseball for 40 years and helped WBI Energy’s welding department build the red iron superstructure for the new grandstand at Glendive’s fairgrounds.
Laura Lueder Manager of Communications and Public Relations, MDU Resources Bismarck, North Dakota
Laura has been active as a Girl Scout and Girl Scouts volunteer for over 20 years and is a Lifetime Girl Scout member. Her involvement with the Girl Scouts started when her mom signed her up in first grade. Her mom was her Girl Scout troop leader. Laura volunteered as her daughter’s Girl Scout troop leader. While she was a troop leader, she also was a Service Unit volunteer, serving in officer positions. Laura has been a camp director and continues to serve on the camp planning committee and as a camp volunteer. She serves on the Board of Directors for Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizons and volunteers for many Girl Scouts events.
Her passion for STEM opportunities, combined with her love for the Girl Scouts organization, has fostered a STEM partnership between MDU Resources Group and Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizons. The partnership encourages young ladies to consider STEM opportunities and introduces them to STEM career fields.