Kindness knows no borders in Arnegard, N.D.
ARNEGARD, N.D. -- Santa's had to fill some pretty strange orders in his day, but the jolly old boy in the red suit might be scratching his head at the wish list from folks in Arnegard in far western North Dakota. Topping the list is an ambulance,...
ARNEGARD, N.D. - Santa’s had to fill some pretty strange orders in his day, but the jolly old boy in the red suit might be scratching his head at the wish list from folks in Arnegard in far western North Dakota.
Topping the list is an ambulance, filled with the necessary equipment, in good working order, capable of being driven all the way to a small city in the heart of Mexico.
And next on the list is a small passenger bus, the kind that senior citizens could use for errands or doctor’s appointments in Mexico City.
He does have a magical sleigh, but a load of that size might put a lot of strain on the reindeer.
In this case, Santa found an elf right over in Watford City, a transplant who moved in with the oil boom to start a new life, who just happened to have an old ambulance that, with a little bit of work, will be just perfect for the people of Jacona, Mexico.
The elf is Gregg Schuetze, who moved to Watford City four years ago and lived in an old broken down camper while he got his start in the oil patch as an electrician. He bought a used ambulance to carry his electrician tools and supplies and put 15,000 miles on it before investing in a more professional-looking van to sport his business name, “Watford Electric.”
Schuetze read about the project by the Wilmington Lutheran Church in Arnegard to help supply the people of Jacona with some basic needs, starting earlier this fall with the old Arnegard fire truck, which is already on its way to the border and should be delivered soon.
“I thought, hey, wait a minute, I’ve got an ambulance,” Schuetze said of the old vehicle parked in his yard and, with a tune-up and some work on the carburetor, it should be good to go. “I bought it for less than $1,000 and drove it for more than a year.”
It’s a four-wheel drive rig, with all the ambulance bay lighting and storage intact. Still needed is someone willing to donate a gurney, basic emergency equipment and a medical gas unit.
Schuetze has slowly realized his dream and he and his wife and young daughter have a small house in Watford City and a good life now. Giving feels so right, he said.
“It feels like we got it all,” he said.
The Rev. Dan Paulson is heading the project and says it all started with one of his parishioners, Manuel Cabrara, who came from Jacona to work for Miller Insulation in the oil patch. Paulson got to know Cabrara and learned about the poverty there and the need for basic services.
“He was always the first to volunteer and has a really giving heart. He’s a great story of the oil boom and the people who come that sometimes we look at sideways,” Paulson said.
Paulson started talking with the Arnegard Fire Department that was replacing a 1982 2,000-gallon fire tender. Fire chief Harold Larson, along with the department board, jumped on board.
Larson said it was not a hard sell.
“We were getting rid of it and we wouldn’t be making any money out of it, so why not give it to someone who could use it?” he said.
The department donated 100 feet of hose plus a nozzle worth $2,000, along with the truck.
Paulson and Cameron Arnegard drove the truck to Dallas, where a vehicle dealer they know will finish the export paperwork to get it into Mexico. The church membership didn’t blink once and chipped in the $1,700 for fuel, food, lodging and return airfare for the delivery.
Now that Schuetze has donated the ambulance, Paulson has his sights set next on a small transportation bus, hopefully one that’s wheelchair accessible.
“Someone will come through,” he said, without a doubt in his voice.
Cabrara has since gone back home to Jacona and sends letters to Paulson through an intermediary who knows English. The letters say, “Thank you very much from the people of Jacona,” and it doesn’t take much translation to feel the gratitude in the words on the paper.
“We love him, and we miss him,” Paulson said of the small man who spoke in broken English, insisted on calling him “Father” and found a home among the Lutherans of Arnegard despite his Catholic faith and taught them that kindness is color-blind.
“He’s a marvelous image of the people we’ve come to know here in the oil patch,” Paulson said.
Anyone who has medical equipment or a good used senior citizen bus that could help the people of Jacona can contact Paulson at 701-240-2681.