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Officials say anonymous woman donates $2,000 per flooded family

April 30, 1997

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ A woman has made an anonymous pledge to give $2,000 to each household in flood-ravaged Grand Forks and neighboring East Grand Forks, Minn., state and city officials said Tuesday.

Grand Forks Mayor Pat Owens called the donation a gift from heaven.

``God has answered our prayers,″ she said. ``He has sent a person as an anonymous donor who cares about each and every one of us in this region and wants to help you without any repayment.

``It is a ray of hope so we can build on our future.″

Based on an estimate of 50,000 households in the two cities straddling the Red River, Gov. Ed Schafer said the pledge could total $50 million.

``Wow. It’s pretty unbelievable that someone would step forth with that kind of money,″ Schafer said. ``That’s amazing.″

Kevin Dvorak, president of the North Dakota Community Foundation, a nonprofit corporation which is distributing the money, said the donor transferred more than $2 million into its account Tuesday.

He said between 300 and 500 payments were made Tuesday, totaling $600,000 to $1 million. The donor reportedly has no ties to North Dakota, and neither she nor any of her relatives ever lived in the state.

About 300 recipients lined up at a shelter at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, which is serving as a shelter for flood refugees, to get checks.

``I’m going to hold on to it, get some stuff to get started, like some clothes, and then probably put the rest in the bank,″ said Steve Maragos, 29, an unemployed Grand Forks resident.

Before the flood, many of the residents at the Air Force Base were living in low-income housing in Grand Forks, Dvorak said.

Plans to distribute additional funds were being made Tuesday, Dvorak said. No future disbursements will be made at shelters, and people will have 45 days to apply, he said.

The woman stipulated only that money go to people who had suffered from the flood, with a minimum of red tape.

``They need to be people who have actually suffered,″ Dvorak said. ``We’re going to have to trust the people of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks to be honest about their needs.″

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