Marlys Kunz remembers her father talking about Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch before it even existed. He was a pastor at a small congregation, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Hannover, N.D.
Marlys says, “Every once in a while there was a young man who would get into some trouble. They would be sent to the state training school in Mandan. My father was never happy with that because he said the only things they learned there were new tricks.”
Her father, Pastor William Gierke, felt there should be another place these boys could get help…a place where it was OK to talk about religion, and incorporate Christ into the daily activities of the children. Marlys isn’t sure how it all came together, but she does remember her father’s excitement about Dakota Boys Ranch, the place organized by the North Dakota District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
As soon as the LCMS leaders began talking about the Ranch, Pastor Gierke started spreading the word. As a circuit rider (senior pastor to other pastors), he visited every congregation and pastor. While there, he met with the pastor and the church council, and often preached a sermon.
“Once there was talk of the Ranch, he managed to work it into many of his sermons,” Marlys says. “He asked congregations to help get it organized, and to support it financially.”
He also shared his love for the Ranch with his family. Marlys remembers that it was often included in their family prayers.
As she grew up, Marlys carried her father’s love of the Ranch with her. She and her husband, Wes, started supporting the Ranch by sending memorial gifts. As they raised their family and pursued their careers (Marlys as a school teacher and Wes as a healthcare administrator), their interest slowly built. They read the Ranch Voice from cover to cover, attend Ranch events, and have toured the facilities several times over the years.
Marlys remembers one particular tour when a teacher asked a young man living at the Ranch to give the tour.
“He started out flustered, but by the time we left, I think that kid felt like a million bucks. We both complimented him. He found success and that built his self-esteem. He showed us where he slept and where he kept his books. I was so happy for him.”
“The Ranch has always been a part of our giving. Now, when we are older and have more to share, we continue to believe in the mission of the Ranch. We like the Ranch and the way you care for kids. I can’t imagine what we would do with all those kids if the Ranch went away. That would be the worst thing.”
Their heart for children and love for the Ranch led Marlys and Wes to decide they wanted to make a major gift to advance the mission of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. After discussing their options with Linda Medhus, Senior Development Officer at the Ranch, Marlys and Wes made a decision to transfer ownership of a piece of property to the Ranch, an outright gift of real estate. (Gifts of real estate provide a double benefit to the donor—a charitable deduction, in most cases, for the full fair market value of the property, plus avoidance of any potential capital gains tax.) They made the gift in memory Marlys’ parents, Rev. William and Lydia Gierke.
Wes and Marlys are humble people and when approached about letting us tell their story, they were thoughtful before saying “yes.”
“As long as the article gives the glory to God, because that’s what it is all about for us,” Marlys said. “We feel so great about our decision to gift the property, and we are happy to help Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch…it just truly makes us happy to be touching young lives.”