Buffalo Public Library Gets New Lease on Life

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Buffalo Public Library Gets New Lease on Life

After over two dozen volunteers from UND, NDSU, and Fargo visited Buffalo, N.D., June 10 and 11, the community’s public library had a fresh coat of paint—and a new lease on life.

The project to paint the Margaret Fraase Public Library, located in a house built in 1885 and now owned by the Buffalo Historical Society/Heritage Center, is one of several steps in Buffalo’s plan to increase its curb appeal and to attract new residents and businesses. Local residents under the leadership of the Buffalo Job Development Authority rallied to provide the supplies and equipment, welcome the volunteers, paint, and provide them with home-cooked meals.

With a population of under 200 residents, Buffalo is the type of community in North Dakota that needs a helping hand, according to the UND Center for Community Engagement, which coordinated the out-of-town volunteer recruitment. Center Director Lana Rakow said the two days of volunteering not only helped out Buffalo, it also provided an opportunity for the UND and NDSU students, many of whom were international students, to learn about rural communities in the U.S.

UND graduate student Deepthi Waidyasekera, from Sri Lanka, said that volunteering in Buffalo showed her the attitude of rural people in the U.S., from small children through 70 and over, who were enthusiast about where they live. “It’s amazing!” she said. “I won’t forget to share my experience in Buffalo with my mom who is living in Sri Lanka at the age of 80. I feel this will be an example for my country.” Besides volunteering to paint, Waidyasekera, a geography major who also is a senior lecturer in Geography in Kotelawala Defence Academy, is working on a population study of Buffalo that is helping her understand U.S. rural population trends while producing information that will be useful to the community with its planning.

Another benefit from the painting project was the cooperation that resulted. “I was happy that UND and NDSU could cooperate on bringing volunteers to Buffalo. It shows both campuses care about serving our communities,” Rakow said. Members of the Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls team also turned out to paint Saturday.

Taking the lead in recruiting volunteers and making plans with the community were two VISTA members (Volunteers in Service to America), Sarah McKenzie and Muriel Kingery, who have positions at the Center for Community Engagement. Volunteers were signed on under the auspices of RSVP+ Southern Valley, a volunteer recruitment program with an office in Fargo, that Rakow hopes will be able to find more volunteers for projects in Buffalo in the future.

The Margaret Fraase Public library is named after a long-time local resident with a strong belief in the value of books and education who died in 1999. It is run by a volunteer library director, Lois Smith, as well as a library board and other community volunteers who staff the operation a few hours a week.

Smith said the help with the painting was invaluable. “We couldn’t have gotten the painting done without the volunteers who came to help.” She said she also was grateful for the offer of professional assistance that Rakow conveyed from the UND Chester Fritz Library to help the library focus its mission and its collection.

In other words, helping Buffalo with its curb appeal is just the beginning, Rakow said. The Center will be connecting UND faculty and students to other projects throughout the coming year, in preparation for the Center’s annual community-university forum, which will be held in Buffalo April 28, 2012. “Buffalo is our pilot. What we learn from helping Buffalo we hope to make available to other rural communities in the future,” she added.

Lana Rakow, UND Center for Community Engagement Director

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