In the Beginning…
The House of Manna is a Christian, non-denominational, non-profit, charitable organization located in the heart of Southwest North Dakota, Dickinson. The first act of kindness that grew into House of Manna occurred in November of 1989. A fire had taken the home and belongings of a family in Dickinson, and Jean Stull responded. Jean was able to gather two car-loads of donated clothing and deliver them to the family. After this first achievement, Jean started collecting clothing to offer to all fire victims she read about in the newspaper, and the House of Manna was born. Jean’s vision of helping others grew from her basement to her garage, then to a cold storage unit. The pastor and staff of St. John’s Episcopal Church soon heard about her efforts and offered the church basement. This worked for a while, but all too soon this space was also outgrown. A location in downtown Dickinson, the Binek Cafe building, was next. After much growth and four moves, House of Manna arrived at its current location in 1993where it has become well-known for its services. Jean said word got out that if you go to Dickinson, they will help you.
House of Manna was started with a simple belief statement. It is a verse from the Bible and is the core of its existence; Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brothers, you have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40. The purpose of the House of Manna was, and is, to help people in emergency situations, such as fire, breakup of a home, loss of employment, and other situations. This organization has grown from one person’s response to a single need and has steadily increased. Jean’s perspective was, “We shouldn’t make judgments…if the President walked into House of Manna, I would help him the same as anyone else. It is not for us to judge.” Although Jean moved from Dickinson in 2002, her vision of helping others has continued, thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers.
House of Manna assists those in emergency situations, but also those who do not have access to other services to meet their needs. This population consists of the needy, the working poor, welfare recipients, those who fall between the cracks of the social system, transients, senior citizens with limited income, and those hit by an unexpected crisis. The service area exceeds a one hundred mile radius of Dickinson, and includes all of southwestern North Dakota, as well as parts of Montana and South Dakota. People from as far away as Minnesota, Idaho, and Texas have accessed the services of House of Manna. Dickinson is a University town and as such, many National and International students have utilized the House of Manna services.
The House of Manna attempts to accomplish its purpose by accepting donations of useable clothing, household goods, beds, small appliances, furniture, and some food items. God supplies these items primarily through the generous donations from the citizens and businesses in the area and surrounding states. The items are sorted and organized, then made available to the needy on a free-will offering basis. The items of clothing that, for whatever reason, cannot be utilized, but are still clean and useable, have been sent to other areas of the world through a federal government program and the God’s Child project. In this way, the vast majority of items donated are utilized with little waste.
The House of Manna is operated by a staff of 20+ volunteers and in 2007, the Board of Directors hired the first paid manager. The budget consists of funds received from United Way, donations mailed from individuals and organizations, and donations received from two free will offering boxes in the facility. The number of people served has steadily risen fr0m that first family to 27,000 people in 2005. The value of items donated to the House of Manna and, in turn provided to clients, exceeds a million dollars per year.