By Marci Narum
614 North Fourth Street in Bismarck was home to Stacy Berven for most of her life. Her parents, Joyce and Loren Vettel, purchased what had been known as “The Woodmansee House” and moved the family into the charming two-story stucco in 1969. Stacy was in the third grade.
“It has that warm feeling to it. The living room is huge. We used to call it the seven-cartwheel living room,” Stacy says, reminiscing about her childhood. “We used to dangle my little brother Mike down the laundry shoot. We’d drop him from the kitchen down into the basement,” she laughs, after sharing the memories.
Stacy also remembers all the little nooks and crannies that were ideal hiding spots for her and her siblings, and she recalls helping her pro-life parents stuff envelopes for Right to Life in their family home.
“We did tons of mailings, and I remember them spread out across the living room floor, either alphabetizing or putting mailings into zip codes so they could be rubber banded together and taken to the post office.
“The Birthright phone was in my parents’ house. It was basically just for weekends because I think they had a normal phone during the weekdays, so (a woman) could call and have some counseling and talk to someone … so every morning, Mom would put a new message on the Birthright phone.”
DIFFERENT BUT THE SAME
An unexpected message prompted Stacy to take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about her life at 614 North Fourth Street.
“Dede Vetter (Vetter Construction) messaged me and said, ‘We just did a walk-through on a project for a (remodeling) estimate at 614 N Fourth. Sound familiar?’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, what are they doing to my parents’ house?”
Stacy got to see for herself. She lives in Vergas, Minnesota but was back in Bismarck for her class reunion in July. She reached out to Val Jundt to find out what was happening at the house.
“The center was looking for a new location with more room and greater accessibility,” Val Jundt, who was serving as the director of communications of Women’s Care Center (Formerly FirstChoice Clinic) at the time, says.
Val coordinated a time to meet Stacy and introduce her to the staff of Women’s Care Center. Stacy walked through her childhood home, which 50 years ago, provided resources for women facing unplanned pregnancies. She saw the former residence becoming a new Women’s Care Center, a place that provides free, confidential counseling, support, and education to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
“First, I thought, ‘Oh it’s kind of sad there won’t be a family living there again, but in the next breath I thought, ‘That’s such a cool thing for my parents’ house to become because they were so in tune to helping young women and the choices of raising a child, giving a child up for adoption, and not having an abortion, that was so important to Mom. So it’s a great thing for (our former home) to become (Women’s Care Center),” Stacy shares. “I love the fact that upstairs, my parents’ bedroom is a little store where mothers (can earn points to) purchase new items such as clothes and toys and different things.”
Women’s Care Center is a non-profit organization and 100 percent donor-funded.
“Ultimately, the dream of repurposing a house so that women could be welcomed into a comfortable environment, versus what could be viewed as a sterile clinic setting, had been discussed,” Val says. “I couldn’t imagine what that might look like initially, but as I was driving down Fourth Street one day and praying that we could find something affordable — I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign in front of this beautiful two-story home near the heart of downtown Bismarck. It seemed perfect.”
Part of the house did lose its charm for Stacy — the kitchen looks nothing like she remembers. It was completely remodeled to accommodate an accessible bathroom and lab for the nurses.
“The kitchen was the heart of my mom’s home,” Stacy says, admitting she was sad to see it gone, while understanding the reason.
And yet, a place like Women’s Care Center is often where a mother, unexpectedly pregnant and unsure about keeping her baby, will hear her child’s heartbeat for the first time.
“I think Mom is smiling down from heaven.”