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.
The free expo featured 15 booths of hands-on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) for kids of all ages. It was held at the Bismarck Municipal Ballpark where the Larks play their baseball games.
The MDU Resources family of companies was represented by:
Montana-Dakota Utilities line technicians and bucket truck.
MDU Resources employees who helped kids participate in brain teaser activities.
STEM-related activities offered by other organizations included:
Medical demonstrations and more.
For the first time, the event featured a live science demo conducted by local science teacher Scott Weigum.
Temperance Castillo |8th grade | Mandan Middle School
Charles Dobrzelecki | 8th grade | Horizon Middle School
Kyle Marcotte | 12th grade |St. Mary’s Central High School (Bismarck)
Lander Monson |8th grade | East Fairview Elementary School
Chloe Pierson | 4th grade | Carrington Public School
Charlee Weinert | 5th grade | Hettinger Public School
STEM grant recipient
The MDU Resources Foundation sponsors a $1,000 STEM grant for one nominating teacher to be used for a STEM project at their school.
The 2023 STEM grant was awarded to Stacy Larson and St. Mary’s Central High School. Ms. Larson plans to use the grant to purchase equipment for the school’s robotics team.
In conjunction with the STEM All-Star recognition, the MDU Resources STEM Expo was held at the ballpark earlier in the day. The expo features hands-on STEM activities hosted by local businesses.
This is the fifth year MDU Resources, the Bismarck Larks and North Dakota’s Gateway to Science have teamed up to showcase STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and honor local STEM All-Stars.
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.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the MDU Resources Foundation. For the past four decades, the foundation has served as the philanthropic arm to share the company’s success with the communities in which its companies operate.
In its 40 years, the MDU Resources Foundation has:
Donated more than $42.3 million to worthwhile charities and organizations in 42 states.
Awarded more than $1.09 million in scholarships.
Sponsored annual scholarships at more than 100 colleges and universities.
Matched employees’ donations to educational institutions in the amount of $990,537.
Supported employees’ volunteerism by donating $523,250.
“We’re proud of our record of supporting qualified organizations that enhance the quality of life in our communities,” Cory Fong, president and director of the MDU Resources Foundation, said. “We believe our efforts have had, and will continue to have, a positive impact.”
The foundation considers requests in the following categories:
Health and human services.
Civic and community activities.
Culture and arts.
The foundation’s greatest impact is through lower-dollar grants. On average, about 85 percent of the foundation’s annual grants are $10,000 or less.
These lower-dollar grants to smaller charities and organizations — often located in small towns with limited funding sources — have a special place in the heart of Rita O’Neill, manager of the MDU Resources Foundation.
“The smaller organizations are so grateful for the funds,” O’Neill said. “They’re the first to send a thank you note, and they use the money so well.”
Throughout its years, the foundation also has made some large donations, like a $1 million donation to the Oregon State University Construction Safety Lab; $100,000 to the Norm Waite Jr. YMCA in South Sioux City, Nebraska, to increase access to daycare options for families; and $250,000 to the North Dakota Heritage Center, to name a few.
“No matter the dollar amount — big or small — MDU Resources Foundation supports efforts to enhance quality of life,” O’Neill said. “We’ve supported large projects that help increase families’ access to much-needed childcare and have helped bring STEM education to youth in rural communities, as well as smaller projects, like helping a small town upgrade its playground.”
Another highlight for O’Neill is working with MDU Resources’ employees in the field, from administrative assistants to presidents, who give her insight on the charities from their communities that apply for grants.
“If it wasn’t for them, our foundation wouldn’t be what it is,” O’Neill said. “They’re my boots on the ground, and they have the pulse on the community where they live and work. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
Foundation also supports employees’ charitable and volunteer activities
The MDU Resources Foundation also has programs to encourage and support employees’ charitable and volunteer activities.
It does this through two match programs:
Employee Match Program for Education
This program doubles employees’ and corporate directors’ personal contributions to educational institutions (elementary, secondary and higher education) by matching contributions between $50 and $750.
Employee Match Program for Volunteerism
This program encourages employees to participate in volunteer activities by giving a grant of $750 to a nonprofit organization at which an employee or employee group volunteers 25 or more hours in one year.