By Jody Kerzman | Photography: Photos by Jacy
Chris Koski is passionate about two things: helping others and making jewelry. That’s why her latest project is such a perfect fit for her.
Chris has teamed up with the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House in Bismarck to make “Keys to Hope,” necklaces and keychains made from old keys found in the building.
“Vivian Meiers contacted me about six months ago. She had a wonderful idea that we could make jewelry and wondered if I would be open to that,” recalls Chris. “I said ‘yes, yes, yes!’ I couldn’t wait to get started.”
In August, Chris began creating. She hand stamped the word “hope” on more than 500 keys and then transformed those keys into necklaces and keychains. Those are now available for purchase throughout Bismarck and Mandan. All the proceeds go directly back to support Ruth Meiers.
“We tell people that by purchasing one of Chris’ pieces they are providing one night of shelter, three meals, and a hot shower for someone in need. That resonates with a lot of folks,” says Cathy Anhalt, Community Resource Officer at Ruth Meiers Hospitality House. “It isn’t a money maker for us. It’s an awareness piece. We want people to know what we do and who we help.”
That has changed immensely since its founding. In 1987, the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House provided shelter services to seven homeless men. Now, Ruth Meiers provides shelter and affordable housing for men, women, and children. Nutrition services, assessments, medical care, chiropractic care, an emergency food pantry, daycare, and afterschool care are also offered. There is a men’s shelter on 23rd street, and a Residential Program located on Boulevard Avenue in the former Baptist Home building. There are more than 100 beds available there, along with 85 affordable housing units. In 2015, the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House provided 34,694 nights of temporary housing for people. They served 47,665 meals, and provided 20,218 pounds of food through their food pantry.
“We are still growing. And as we continue to grow, those services will continue to increase,” says Jaci Hall, Executive Director. “We take a team approach to everything and all of our clients have caseworkers to help them get back on their feet. It really goes back to the analogy, if you give someone a fish, they’ll eat for a day. But if you teach them to fish, they’ll eat forever. We know it takes time. You can’t go from zero to 60 overnight, but our ultimate goal is to help them all become self sufficient.”
It is a mission that tugs at Chris’ heartstrings. She spent her career working as a social worker in the Bismarck Public School district.
“I am retired now, but I’m still a social worker at heart,” she says. “I live in Portland, Oregon now and I help out at the Portland Rescue Mission serving meals. I’m getting involved in anti-sex trafficking work as well. My heart is just right there, helping people. I want to help all God’s people, no matter what their story is.”
Because whatever their story, Chris believes everyone deserves the key to hope.
To see more photos by Photos by Jacy, click here.
Want to purchase a Key to Hope? Here’s a list of places you’ll find them:
- Apricot Lane
- Bread Poets
- Cobalt Moon
- Crabapple Floral
- Dakota Trauma Therapy
- D’Image Salon
- Eco Chic
- Glance Salon
- Hey Ocean
- Impact Gallery
- Karmin’s Kitchen Table
- Koo Koo’s nest
- Lot 2029
- Lula b.
- Mainstream Boutique
- One World
- Pure Skin
- Soul Interiors
Click here to visit the Ruth Meiers website. You’ll find more information about the keys there, as well as more about Ruth Meiers. And watch the video below to hear Cathy and Jaci talk about the Keys to Hope project and new services being offered at Ruth Meiers.