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Northwest Salmon




Kashin’ in on Kumla

Strand-Kjorsvig Living Center benefits from

Norwegian style fundraiser

by Amanda Fanger

By rolling one kumla ball at a time, volunteer chefs in Roslyn hoped to protect Strand-Kjorsvig Living Center from being dropped from South Dakota like a bag of potatoes.

So just after dawn April 23 Roslyn’s Event Center kitchen was packed with 18 of these volunteers who painstakingly transformed 600 pounds of potatoes into the traditional Norwegian dumpling known as Kumla.

The cooking began at 6:30 a.m. before opening its doors to the public at 11 a.m. By 1 p.m., more than 350 visitors would get their fill.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” said event organizer and nursing home administrator Shannon Schmidt. “And everybody through the years knows what they need to do to make the assembly line and process work. They enjoy it, and they enjoy it for the purpose of the nursing home.”

For a food that fueled rural Scandinavian immigrants through the troubles of frontier life, it’s still playing its part generations later.

“It’s a poor man’s food,” said 80-year-old Roslyn local Myrene Hanson as she expertly rolled the potatoes with the mix. She’s been doing it for 60 years, she says. “It’s potatoes and flour, and that was the food they had. They grew their potatoes and ground their wheat for flour. My great grandmother made this. I love it. And it’s even better fried.”

Hanson said that for some of the more daring taste buds, people use syrup, “And we have a fella who comes and brings his own bottle of vinegar.”

The Kumla making process begins with a two-person team tumbling taters into a peeling machine. Once the skins are scraped bare, the potatoes make their way through a series of hand scrapers, cutters, grinders and strainers before being plunked in front of Hanson’s hands. Being this stage requires an acquired skill, Schmidt referred to Hanson as “the master of her craft.”

Finally, the Kumla is flavored in ham juice before making its way to the roasters.

“By the end of our 600 pounds of potatoes, we usually have from 25 to 30 roasters of Kumla balls,” Schmidt estimated.

Complemented with sides of roasted ham, homemade coleslaw and buns, as patrons enjoy the final potato sphere, funds are generated to preserve one of the last standing institutions in Roslyn.

According to Schmidt, had this ham juice soaked specialty not been cooked, Strand-Kjorsvig’s budget wouldn’t be reeling in the dough.

“And then that’s that much money the home is without,” Schmidt said. “It’s a huge deal for us. It helps us keep going and helps us do some of the larger projects we wouldn’t be able to do on just our own. It’s been such a driving support for the home.”

Since September of 2011, what was first proposed by Pierpont local Audrey Johnson, the Strand-Kjorsvig Foundation has held a Kumla fundraiser twice a year, which has helped materialize many of the home’s amenities. Last year in fact, $5,500 amassed from both events.

“In the past, the money raised from this has gone to replace all the flooring in the facility,” Schmidt said. “They also bought a new whirlpool tub and they helped pay for the sprinkler system that was put in several years ago.”

Being that the state boasts one of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement programs in the country, the home’s financing may not run as deeply as Roslyn’s Scandinavian roots. This, according to Schmidt, puts smaller-sized rest homes throughout the Mt. Rushmore State at risk of closing down. If Strand-Kjorsvig did, she added, “then to have to displace our loved ones and our elders to somewhere else? I don’t even like to think about it.”

Schmidt noted that last November Rosholt’s nursing home folded under the same circumstances.

“The answer is not just to close these small facilities, because we have three nursing homes in Day County and most of the time we’re relatively full, so I don’t really think that’s the answer,” Shannon said. “Especially in the years going forward, with the Baby Boomers we’re going to be seeing more of them needing therapy services.”

Schmidt says that private insurers finance their clients’ medical needs on an average of $208 per day, whereas Medicaid recipients create a “$30-$70 shortfall.” Subsequently, as Strand-Kjorsvig, which is a non-profit facility, houses 60-65 percent Medicaid residents, staff also takes a shortfall.

“Staffing has been an interesting thing. We’re forced to used temp agencies,” Schmidt explained. “It’s been an evil part of the process because you can’t afford to pay them what they ask to be paid, but you have to have staff there. We’ve been lucky enough to stay away from that now over these last several months, but that was a huge problem for us.”

Sometimes, she says, she doesn’t know what to wear to work because her duties constantly fluctuate between administrative, nursing and maintenance. For a 29-year-old with husband, Paul, and sons, Jase, five, and Teagen, one and a half, the life certainly takes its toll.

“My family feels the effects of it, but in the same sense my boys will come to the nursing home with me and run around like they own the place,” Schmidt joked.

There are the volunteers to thank.

Even in the moments leading up to the door opening, some younger volunteers, who came from as far as Stratford, which is an hour south, put in their time.

“Today I was unwrapping some of the butter and I was making some of the balls,” said 10-year-old Norah Moen. “It can help out the community by making money for the home. If we didn’t then we would have more sick people who wouldn’t have room for places to go. It’s healthy, and it tastes like potatoes!”

Day county local, 17-year-old Devin Koslow­ski, was caught chipping in. In his three years of helping out, this is the fastest they’re selling, he said.

“We’re going through them faster than we ever have. I’ve wiped sweat off so many times today!” Koslowski joked. His grandmother, Elaine, baked all the homemade rolls. “I like making my grandma and grandpa feel good, and you get to eat. And it’s helping out (the home).”

To add, Schmidt pointed out that the event gives Strand-Kjosvig residents a chance to get out and visit with people as well as take a walk through memory lane.

“The residents are some of the people that enjoy this event the most because it’s something they only get twice a year,” said Schmidt. “It’s something they grew up with, it’s something of their past, it brings them good memories, it brings them joy, and that’s what we’re all about: keeping them cared for and happy and being able to enjoy some of things from their day too.”

As for keeping the home afloat, maybe some can take a breath of relief. Back at Hanson’s workstation, while she had the mashed potatoes and mix glopped between her fingers, she was asked what makes a Norwegian?

She laughed.


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