NDCF's Role in the 1997 Flood Recovery

On April 19, 1997, the Red River of the North overtopped the dikes in Grand Forks, ND.  The water spread quickly over the flat terrain, forcing the largest evacuation of an American city since the Civil War.  Over 50,000 residents left their homes and many buildings suffered flood damage.

As the water flowed down city streets, the North Dakota Governor's office called Kevin Dvorak, President of the North Dakota Community Foundation with a question:  Would NDCF be willing to handle all the private donations that were starting to flow in to help the victims of this natural disaster?  After a quick discussion with the Chair of NDCF’s Board of Directors, Dvorak said yes and the 1997 Flood Relief Fund at NDCF was created.

Within 24 hours of the governor’s request, eight additional phone lines were installed, an 800 number and credit card account were in place, and volunteers – including North Dakota’s First Lady, Nancy Jones-Schafer – were on hand to answer the literally thousands of calls from people all across the country who wanted to help.

Additional funds were also established, including the $20 million “Angel Fund” from one benefactor.  In all $23 million in private donations flowed in and were then distributed through grants to organizations and individuals affected by the flood event. 

Because of grants from the Otto Bremer Foundation and the Northwest Area Foundation and AT&T’s donation of its 800 services, 100% of the gifts received went directly to flood relief.

NDCF created a special report on the donations to the 1997 Flood Relief Fund, which details where the grants from that particular fund went.  We were honored to be of assistance and play a role in recovery efforts from this catastrophic event.