NTC Electrical Students Keep Community Kitchen Humming

Three students working around an electric oven.
(L to R) Keelan Johnson, Jaret Swedberg and Eve Hansen from the NTC Electrical Club repair an oven for the Bemidji Community Table.

With a spark of knowledge and a desire to serve, five Northwest Technical College students helped the Bemidji Community Table repair their ovens and continue providing needed meals for the community.

In early November 2023, Derek Bolin, Eve Hansen, Quin Hoopman, Keelan Johnson and Jaret Swedberg repaired cooktop burners and cleaned and replaced range-hood lighting at the Mt. Zion Church, one of two locations used by the Bemidji Community Table to prepare and serve its free evening meals.

The students learned about the opportunity through Dawn Dahl, office manager for Bemidji State University’s Office of Teacher Education, who serves on the Bemidji Community Table’s Board of Directors. Dahl approached Gwen Oster, NTC electrical faculty, with an idea to have NTC students address needed repairs to the kitchen.

Oster agreed, and students used regularly scheduled lab time to perform the repairs.

“The service call offered a real-world experience for our students to practice the diagnostic and safety skills they learned in class,” Oster said. “It was also a catalyst for us to discuss outdated electrical installations which still require service, even though they are not common in current construction.”

Dahl says the repairs will help the organization affordably increase capacity for the Mt. Zion kitchen, expanding the number of usable burners from four to six.

“The repairs will make meal prep much easier and prolong the life of equipment that is very expensive to replace,” she said.

Laurie Buehler, chair of the Bemidji Community Table’s board, said the work also brought much-needed safety upgrades to the kitchen.

“Some of the burners we replaced had lost their stabilizing rings, so the safety of the equipment had been a concern,” she said. “The cost of visits to determine if equipment is fixable can be over $150 each. As a non-profit, having students volunteer to practice their skills for us is a boon. Thanks to NTC and these students for their help.”

The Electrical Club is one of several clubs and organizations available to NTC’s students. The Electrical Club prepares NTC’s float for Bemidji’s annual Black Friday “Night We Light” parade and is involved in other community activities.

Hansen says the students also benefitted from the work.

“As a student, the opportunity to practice the skills learned in class in the real world is valuable. As a community member, the opportunity to develop skills and use them to help is invaluable,” she said. “I hope we can do more of these activities during my time in the NTC electrical program.”

About Bemidji Community Table

The Bemidji Community Table has provided meals for the Bemidji community for nearly 30 years. The 100% volunteer-driven organization provides four meals each week at two Bemidji-area churches, with no questions asked. The organization’s mission is to “provide meals and promote an ‘open-table’ atmosphere for those in the community needing fellowship who might otherwise go hungry.” Anyone interested in helping the Bemidji Community Table cook, serve food or clean up may sign up online.