Dodge school building becomes The Prairie Center

Former Dodge school building becomes The Prairie Center
Former Dodge school building becomes The Prairie Center
By Maggie Piatz | Staff Writer
A few years back the school in Dodge was put up for sale by bid. Enrollment had declined and at that time the oil boom was on the horizon and back then no one completely realized the impact it would have on the population of this small community of Dodge or its surrounding area.
When the bid opening was held, four families were surprised to find that they had made a successful bid and now owned a large and older, school building. They had joined together with their bid and planned to use the building for investment purposes.
Three families are ordained ministers and missionaries from the Tacoma, Washington area. All four of the families are involved in ministry.
Reality set in when they learned that they were able to purchase this building and the next question was, “now what do we do with it?”  One of the families had ties with Dodge. Carl Brinkman’s grandparents homesteaded in the area. The couple came out for the winter while they were going through the transition period of ownership. A lot of work needed to be done. With help from the community, they were able to bring it back to be a useable building.  Over the next few years they learned a lot of valuable lessons.
Another question they began to ponder was “what was needed” in the Dodge area. How best can we fit into the community needs?  At that time Brian Larson and Becky Pugliese were hired to begin renovations for the building. Brian had grown up hearing about the prairie and the winters in our area, etc. “I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” said Larson. He stayed and he adapted well to the community and the weather.
Since the building lends itself to hospitality, they tried to develop a plan to make the building self-sufficient.
In the beginning they had people show up on their doorstep during a snowstorm looking for a place to stay. While they cannot go long term in these situations, they do try to help out. They still feel that they have not quite found the niche for the building.
Over time they have made a comfortable living space for people to come and spend a night or two. There is excitement from the people when they come; “Everyone loves the feel the building has now,” said Larson. The building is a great place for retreats; both for churches and quilters. There is peacefulness on the property. Larson’s focus is financial, as he continues to look for ways to make the building self-reliant.
Pugliese’s primary focus is on the hospitality and farm area that she has started behind the building. She has good plans for the farm area and is exploring the options of living a life of self-reliance with raising her own produce and canning, etc. Chickens are on her list to raise for eggs and meat.
Although it is apparent they have made a lot of progress in their plans for the building, they feel the building is still a work in progress. Both Larson and Pugliese are good stewards of this 1922 building.
Larsen still finds the time to help out with the school summer lunch program and Pugliese is Dodge’s Postmaster.

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One thought on “Dodge school building becomes The Prairie Center

  1. What a wonderful testament to two people creating a welcoming haven in a place where winters are harsh. I hope with the missionaries involved, retreats are on going. “Working retreats” that involve the garden and/ or upkeep where youth learn trade skills sounds refreshing as well 🙂 …. Job well done!! Stay warm as tomorrow will be a doozie! 🙂

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