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'The nicest home I've ever had': Residents of youth home are overjoyed with remodel

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Community members, along with representatives of the Home Builders Association and Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch cut the ribbon on their remodeled youth home in south Fargo. Photo courtesy of the Home Builders Association2 / 4
Forty-five HBA member companies donated time and money to remodel the youth home. Work begins in the kitchen. Photo courtesy of the Home Builders Association3 / 4
Approximately 2,100 square feet was remodeled, including the kitchen as seen in this "after" photo. Photo courtesy of the Home Builders Association4 / 4

FARGO — When you think about people who work in the construction trades, most likely you don't picture many getting teary-eyed on the job.

But a recent project in South Fargo, probably had a few of them awfully close — not from an errant nail gun or hammer to the thumb — but from the emotional realization that their work made a difference in a child's life.

On Thursday, Home Builders Association of Fargo-Moorhead Remodelers Council and its Home Builders Care of F-M Foundation cut the ribbon for the new Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Fargo Youth Home at 1641 31st Ave. S. The home is a residential child care facility for troubled children ages 12 to 19 who need a place to stay while going through therapy and working through trauma.

"About three years ago, we looked at the facility. It's always provided a place of hope, healing and care, but it had gotten a little shabby around the edges," says Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch President and CEO Joy Ryan.

The organization had funding to fix the outside of the home, but the interior needed work too. At that point, Ryan called Bryce Johnson, CEO of Home Builders Association (who was one of Ryan's students when she taught at the University of North Dakota). Ryan told Johnson about the youth home and the good work being done in it.

"We toured the facility and realized the whole property needed a little TLC," Johnson says. "It was actually a very easy decision to decide to help."

And help they did. Forty-five HBA member companies working with cupboards, cabinets, carpets and everything in between descended upon the property to get it feel like a home again. "Overall, it was about 2,100 square feet," says Trevor Odden, Home Builders Care Foundation trustee, chair of the Remodelers Council and general contractor on the project. "We took in about $60,000 in donations and people also contributed their time. I couldn't have been happier with how it went."

The first step was remodeling the basement rec room, where the residents spent the most time. While Ryan said it was always "clean and safe", they wanted it to be more welcoming and cozy. The new room now has cream-colored overstuffed furniture, TV, pool table, treadmill and brightly colored artwork. The kids even chose a slogan to hang on the wall: "Together We Overcome."

After that, remodeling started in the rest of the house including the living room and kitchen. In all, about 75 kids have been impacted by the transformed home.

"It's not just a house, it's a home now," says Tom Kopp, treatment manager for the youth home. "It's a place for these kids to thrive and find their place."

The impact was not lost on the men and women who worked on the project.

"It's really become a personal project for our members. We've all been amazed at the impact it's having," Johnson says.

Johnson tears up slightly as she talks about the Christmas ornaments and heartfelt thank you notes she and other HBA members received from residents after the remodel.

"They were anonymous, but most said 'Thank you. This is the nicest home I've ever had'," Johnson says. "It's been a joy, a rewarding project and a privilege for our members to be involved."

Tracy Briggs

Tracy Briggs is a former TV anchor/radio host currently working as a features writer and video host for Forum Communications.

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