When the school in Dodge was put up for sale by bid years ago, enrollment had declined and at that time the oil boom was on the horizon
By MAGGIE PIATZ | Staff Reporter
When the school in Dodge was put up for sale by bid years ago, enrollment had declined and at that time the oil boom was on the horizon. No one completely realized the impact it would have on the population of the 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, 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, Wash. area. All four of the families are involved in ministry.
Reality set in when they learned that they were able to purchase the building and the next question was what to do with it.
One of the families had ties with the 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 was needed, but 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 could the 1922 era building fulfill the community’s needs?
At that time, Brian Larson and Becky Pugliese were hired to begin on renovations for the building.
Larson had grown up hearing about the prairie and the winters in the area.
“I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” Larson said. But he stayed and adapted well to the community and the weather.
Because the building lends itself to hospitality, they tried to develop a plan to make the building self-sufficient. The building was well poised for hospitality for guests or possibly apartment-style living.
In the beginning they would have people show up on their doorstep during a snowstorm looking for a place to stay. While they cannot go long-term in such situations, they tried to help.
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,” Larson said.
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 plans for the farm area and is exploring the option of living a life of self-reliance by raising her own produce and canning. Chickens are on her list to raise for eggs and meat.
Though it is apparent they have made a lot of progress on their plans for the building, they feel the building is still a work in progress.