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Better the Place He Lives

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Across the street from Karen Schlecht’s home in Medina, North Dakota, there is a house. Now condemned, the house is covered in fallen siding, chipped paint, broken windows, and a variety of graffiti markings. There’s also a garage and an unlivable trailer, both filled to the brim with all manner of debris—garbage, rotten soybeans, even an old deer carcass.

“The previous owners did nothing to care for the property, leaving an indescribable mess behind.”

“The previous owners did nothing to care for the property, leaving an indescribable mess behind,” said Karen, Senior Client Services Specialist at Choice Bank.

Over the years, the condemned property has become not just an eyesore, but a safety hazard for the community. Then along came Ryan Jablonski.

Ryan, a single father raising his daughter in Medina, purchased the property in June 2020 with the sole purpose of cleaning up his community and preventing anyone from getting hurt. Before he could do anything about the structures, Ryan needed to clear them of their contents. He spent the summer hauling trailer loads full of trash from the trailer house, garage, yard, and condemned house to his own farm to burn. After the trailer was emptied, Ryan, with assistance from a friend, then hauled the trailer itself to his farm to be burned. With the country roads under water due to flooding, he was forced to take a detour to get to his farm, a 25-mile round trip.

The unlivable trailer house was hauled away to Ryan’s farm to burn. The condemned house on the property had to be demolished.

And as Ryan was clearing out the property, he discovered that the previous owner had left approximately 50 cats, many of them just tiny kittens, to fend for themselves. It was a heartbreaking sight, and Ryan, with his kind heart and fondness for animals, went to great lengths to relocate the animals.

The process and expenses grew even more complicated as Ryan moved on to removing the condemned house. When he requested a quote for tearing down the decrepit house, he discovered it would cost $5,000. With a full-time job, a small farm, and being a single father, $5,000 was more than Ryan could afford on his own.

Seeing all the good Ryan was doing in the community, Karen had an idea. She submitted a wish for up to $5,000 to the Choice Bank Wishing Well to assist Ryan with the removal costs.
“Ryan is putting out a lot of hard work and manpower to better that property for himself, the neighborhood, and the community as a whole,” Karen said in her wish submission. “It would be nice to see that a hardworking individual as himself could get acknowledged and rewarded.”

Karen’s wish was granted. In early December, as Karen, Ryan, and the rest of the community looked on, Medina’s own Guthmiller Earthmoving demolished the crumbling house, hauled it out to Ryan’s farm to burn, and filled in the hole that remained. In its place lay fresh soil, ready for a new home and a new life.

Medina location leader Gerald Horner and Senior Client Services Specialist Karen Schlecht share with Ryan Jablonski that Karen submitted a wish asking for assistance with helping him clean up the property in Medina. Choice Bank granted Karen’s wish.

Now, when Medina residents drive by or Karen peers out her window in the morning, no one has to look at a a dilapidated home, vulgar spray paint, and piles of trash; they see a fresh start. And Karen is reminded of Ryan’s hard work, big heart, and of one of Choice’s core values: bettering the places we live.

“Oftentimes, hard-working people who truly care about others and their community are taken for granted with their willingness to help anyone out, whether they are asked to or not—and that is the type of person Ryan is,” Karen said.


The Choice Bank Wishing Well is now accepting wishes for 2021! Ready to cast yours? Visit choicewishingwell.com and let us know who you would like to help out in your community.