Crystal Irene Orth Ennen
Do you know someone who wants to downsize and live in an awesome retirement community in a peaceful farm town on the prairie in Southeastern North Dakota?
Dakota Estates might be just what you or your family needs!
Surprisingly affordable apartment living for senior citizens in a friendly rural community with cooking and cleaning services, community spaces, activities provided, a chapel, and more!
The residents of Dakota Estates have been through a lot lately.
The community of Lidgerwood, ND recently found out that their beloved non-profit local retirement center, Dakota Estates, was struggling financially… in the worst way possible. On a cold day, the board announced to the community of elderly residents, most of whom have made Lidgerwood their home throughout their entire lives and have nowhere else to go, that Dakota Estates would be closing, and they had until the end of this year to find somewhere else to live.
As you can imagine, this unexpected eviction news was beyond stressful to the residents of Dakota Estates, their families, the staff, and many past and present residents of Lidgerwood as well as people all over the country with connections to the beloved pillar of the community that has been around for almost fifty years. Dakota Estates has been home to the town’s elders since the early seventies.
Many questions were left unanswered, and the community was outraged that they did not even get a chance to try to help and that they did not find out about the financial difficulties sooner. The community was in agreement – nobody wants Dakota Estates to close!
Even though I have not been a resident of Lidgerwood, ND for over 20 years, this news was especially heartbreaking to me because of my personal connection to Dakota Estates through my late grandpa, Eldon Orth. Eldon was a visionary and gifted leader. He was kind of a big deal in Lidgerwood, and he was instrumental in bringing Dakota Estates to the community: planning it, designing it, building it, filling it, and running it… ethically.
The original board’s plan was to provide a nice place to live for the local elderly people who may not be able to maintain their households any longer but are not in need of nursing home services either.
The board’s mission has only one purpose… to benefit the residents of Dakota Estates.
My grandpa Eldon served on the board for many years before stepping into the role of Administrator, and when we were little kids, he would take my cousin and I over to Dakota Estates quite often. We would do puzzles with “the old people” as we called the residents, play cards with them, do crafts, visit, play air hockey, run around, and just hang out with our grandpa and all of the people who lived there. It was always full and buzzing with activity at that time. Nowadays, the building is only about half full, but the community of Lidgerwood has high hopes for Dakota Estates.
Soon after the board’s closing announcement, community members past and present were rallying together in support of saving Dakota Estates and the people who call it their home. The local news ran a story about Dakota Estates closing.
This news was heartbreaking, and the community responded in the most inspirational way.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, the board held a special meeting which was attended by a large number of people young and old, past and present residents of Lidgerwood, who are willing to do what they can to help keep Dakota Estates open and running as usual. After much discussion, the board voted unanimously in favor of keeping Dakota Estates open and operating as usual until April 1, 2023.
The plan is for ownership to potentially change on or before that date, with plans to keep it open and operating as usual for many, many years to come.
After the meeting, the residents needed to hear the news first, and it worked out that they were all gathering in the dining room for lunch time. Once everyone was together, a board member announced that Dakota Estates will remain open until April 1st, 2023. With lots of looks of disbelief in the room, she repeated the announcement that the board had unanimously approved the decision to keep Dakota Estates open until April 1st, and there was not a dry eye in the room. “We don’t have to move?”
“You don’t have to move.”
Locals reassured the residents that they’re going to “getcha” through the winter, and one resident rose and went over to the piano to play everyone a celebratory tune. “It’s a Christmas miracle!” according to resident Lorraine Fuka, and I think everyone agrees.
Eldon would be proud of the community, the residents, his strong, intelligent, and kind granddaughters, and all of the Lidgerwood citizens who have stepped up to help. This is just the beginning. There is no definite answer yet. There are potential buyers, but nothing is set in stone, and multiple options for keeping Dakota Estates operational are being considered. What matters now is that the community knows what is happening and is willing to offer help and support.
Donations to Dakota Estates can be made at Lincoln State Bank or through GoFundMe.
The community has organized a benefit fundraiser, raffles, live and silent auction which will be at the KC Hall in Lidgerwood on Saturday, December 10th. Doors open at 4:00.
Volunteers are needed to help with various jobs including painting, plumbing, cleaning, helping with activities, or even construction work at Dakota Estates. Many community members have already rallied together to put in new flooring, paint, and make other improvements to the building, but more volunteers are always appreciated. If you are local and you want to help in any way, please do not hesitate to show up. If you are willing to make a donation, that is great too, and any dollar amount is appreciated. The donations are going towards helping Dakota Estates pay their bills and run the day to day operations. The more donations are received, the easier it will be to keep it open and functioning.
The board is hosting a community meeting at the Lidgerwood Legion Hall on 11/30 at 7:00 pm to share the recent developments with the public.
Let’s help Dakota Estates fill back up again so it can be successful for another fifty years.
My grandpa Eldon was on the original board who officially opened the doors of Dakota Estates on April 1, 1974. This made the April 1st extension date especially auspicious. I am excited for him to look down on the 50 year anniversary of Dakota Estates in 2024 seeing it full and running successfully again.
To quote the Dakota Estates article in the Lidgerwood Centennial book, “To judge the future by the past, only one thing can be said: Long Live Dakota Estates.”