Giving Hearts Day helps local nonprofits

BISMARCK, N.D. - UPDATE (Feb. 9): Giving Hearts Day 2018 has now concluded. A total of 28,044 giving hearts donated more than $13 million to more than 400 nonprofits scattered across North Dakota and Minnesota. The total averages out to about $468 per donor.

ORIGINAL STORY (Feb. 8): More than 400 North Dakota and Minnesota charities are partnered together in an online fundraiser Thursday hosted by Dakota Medical Foundation and the Impact Institute. The Giving Hearts Day fundraiser helps nonprofits, like the F5 Project that helps felons statewide, receive donations.

Ben Stechmann is a felon who has already served his time, but after getting out of jail he had trouble finding a job, and even a home. A number of apartment complexes reject anyone with felonies on their record.

"It puts you in a position of hopelessness" said Stechmann.

F5 helps people like Ben, who have served their sentences, find housing and jobs.

"With working with the project, and being able to give back to other people, it gave me a new lease on life. I was able to surround myself with a positive community," said Stechmann.

They opened about a one house a month between April and October of 2017 in Fargo, and their first women's house in Bismarck opened in November. Now they are looking at finalizing a new men's house in Bismarck in the next month or two.

"We really want to give people that second chance when they get out of jail or treatment so they don't have to go back to the streets and continue a lifestyle that they don't want to live anymore," said Kristy Johnson, F5 housing director.

They have already helped more than 100 people with their services.

The project is called F5 both because that is the computer key for refreshing your screen, and because it happens to be the number of felonies that their founder has served time for.

To donate to F5 Project and other North Dakota nonprofits, go to giving.impactgiveback.org.