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Kelly Smith, Published December 19 2008

Oak Grove receives $1.25 million gift

Fargo entrepreneur Shelly Ellig has a simple reason for giving an “unprecedented” $1.25 million to Fargo Oak Grove Lutheran School.

“They’re just good people,” the 81-year-old owner of the Stop-N-Go franchise said Thursday.

But his gift to the school isn’t so modest.

“The level of support is unprecedented,” Oak Grove President Bruce Messelt said, adding it’s one of the largest gifts in the school’s 100-plus year history. “We’re obviously eternally grateful.”

The million-dollar donation will go toward a five-year $14.5 million capital campaign for the school. The last major project benefiting from the campaign was unveiled Thursday: the Ellig Center for Health and Wellness.

The Ellig Center project included renovating a 40-year-old gym and adding more than 6,700 square feet to include weight and aerobics rooms, an expanded school store and concessions, five locker rooms, offices and classrooms. Plasma TVs hang in the lobby for replaying athletic games.

“This is a huge improvement,” senior basketball player Haley Vangerud said.

About $2.4 million went into the center as well as renovations to the elementary school. The center will be rededicated at 4:30 p.m. Saturday between varsity basketball games.

“I really think this is the wave of the future,” Messelt said.

The state-of-the-art facility isn’t just about looks. It’s also symbolic of new programming Oak Grove is looking to take on – focused more on customized, individual fitness plans for K-12 students, Messelt said.

“It’s really going to be the programming piece that will make the impact,” he said.

It’s part of a trend among schools – especially colleges – to increase focus on fitness.

“We’re now starting to see it in the elementary and high schools,” Messelt said. “(And) we’re taking it to the next level.”

Oak Grove officials aren’t stopping here.

The school hopes to raise an additional $3 million by the end of 2009 to end its campaign with

$18 million – a notable accomplishment during a time when other private schools are seeing decreases in donations and enrollment due to the tight economy.

“I think we’re going to see a dip, too,” Messelt said. “(But) our prayer is, between a great mission, great programming and great facilities, it will be the right equation for families.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515