Read full article here: https://www.parkrapidsenterprise.com/news/local/creators-place-aims-to-create-jobs-in-pine-point
PINE POINT, Minn. — Pine Point is only 20 miles from Park Rapids, but many residents who live in that corner of the White Earth Reservation, just down the road from the village of Ponsford, lack access to transportation and jobs.
The video below was created and donated to Creator's Place by Will Olson, Lead For America Volunteer
Retired special education teacher Jean Kruft, of rural Dorset, got to know people in the Pine Point community when she helped with the Bible school program on the reservation, sponsored by Calvary Lutheran Church in Park Rapids, a few years ago. That led to volunteering at Pine Point School with students in first through third grades.
“I also got involved with a mission group from Detroit Lakes and started doing Friday woodworking workshops for adults,” she said. “We had a meal together, and seven to 10 people would stay and help build wooden farm sets. They were really having fun, and they were happy to get paid. They had good skills and were good workers. I thought about how great it would be to have a little manufacturing center out there. But as a retired educator, I thought that was a dream.”
Kruft also helped people on the reservation sell their handcrafted items, including Anishinaabe beadwork, in her shop on Etsy named Creator’s Place.
“I’m not Native,” she said. “I did own the Wigwam store in Lake George for a couple of years. There were people who came in looking for authentic American Indian art, but at that time, I didn’t have any connection with any of the tribes.”
As Kruft started making connections with adults in the community, she was hearing about what a bad year it was for wild rice.
“That’s something people rely on for money,” she said. “But the rivers and lakes were so low last year, they couldn’t get out in canoes. Some people were even using snowshoes to try and walk out to get to the rice. So I knew they were hurting for money more than usual."
“One of the guys said people know how to do diamond willow carving. A lot of the land out there is a swamp, which is where diamond willow grows, and it’s free. So if you have a carving knife, you can make walking sticks and canes. I said I’d buy those and put them on the Etsy shop where I had been selling the farm sets.
“I turned the Etsy shop into a Native American traditional craft site. A lot of the women do just incredible bead work, and some also make things out of birch bark. So I turned my Friday afternoons into a sort of trading post, where I would buy handmade items from people and put them on the website and sell them. It’s still going. In a year and a half, we’ve sold a little over $30,000 worth of items.”
Bam'idizowigamig Creator’s Place was the name chosen for the Etsy website, and will also be the name of the new facility that will be housed in the 50-by-80-foot steel building.
“When one of our board members asked an Ojibwe language teacher about the words for Creator’s Place, they said no one would ever say that, because the creator is everywhere,” she explained. “Bam'idizowigamig is the Ojibwe word for a place where people can support themselves.”
Dreams for the future
“My dream is that some people will be able to get confidence to start their own online business or be able to afford a car, so they can work in other areas if they want to get a full-time job someplace in the future,” Kruft said. “A few of the people I’ve worked with have a car, but it’s not reliable.”
She said she also hopes to have a probation officer in the building, so people released from jail can keep their appointments.
“One of the things that happens is that people can’t get to their probation meetings in Detroit Lakes or Fargo, and are put back in jail because they’ve violated probation,” she said. “We’re hoping to help with that.”
SCORE is helping with marketing. A $10,000 grant from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation will help with management training for employees.
Clean Energy Resource Teams gave Creator’s Place $5,000 to make the building more energy efficient. That money was used for spray foam insulation.
“We also hope to put in solar panels in the future,” she said.
Kruft also wants to offer a woodworking program for children after school sometime down the road.
“We have a classroom in the building that would work for that,” she said.
Kruft also hopes more local shops will carry the hand-crafted items made at the Creator’s Place.
“The Red Barn on Highway 34 in Park Rapids does sell our things,” she said. “They’ve been extremely supportive.”
How to help
Volunteers are needed to help with a variety of jobs, including teaching woodworking, helping write grants, and working in the office. Churches or organizations willing to provide a noon meal once the facility opens are invited to contact Kruft and set up a time.
Tools, office supplies, crafting supplies and other items on the wish list are also needed.
Checks to help support the nonprofit organization are tax deductible and may be mailed to Creator’s Place, 48513 PowWow Highway, Ponsford, MN 56575.
For more information about donating items or volunteering, email email@example.com or call 218-699-3811.