Faces of the Boom: Longtime Williston resident welcomes newcomers with hot meals

Terri Sorenson and her son, Raef, serve food Feb. 18 in Williston, N.D., to job-seekers who have moved to the area. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – The experiences of oil boom workers moving to Williston are familiar to Terri Sorenson.

She lived it in 1980.

Now the longtime Williston resident is trying to make newcomers to town feel welcome by preparing hot meals for them.

“I know what it feels like to be called oilfield trash and have people not like you being here,” Sorenson said.

Terri and her husband, Kevin, both formerly of Grand Forks, moved to Williston in 1980 for job opportunities during that oil boom.

They landed in the Oil Patch after a cement construction job Kevin had lined up in Seattle fell through.

“We had to go someplace to go to work, so Williston was the place,” he said.

Kevin did seismograph drilling for oil exploration. Housing was scarce and prices were high, so they lived in a 27-foot trailer for three years.

The couple then found a home to rent in Epping and later bought a home in Williston after the boom went bust and prices dropped.

Kevin transitioned to drilling water wells and owns and operates S and S Drilling that serves Williston and the surrounding area.

“We have so much work to do we don’t get out of town much,” Kevin said.

For the past year, Terri has been preparing hot meals every two weeks for job-seekers. Last Monday, Terri and her son, Raef, served chili to about 30 newcomers who are sleeping on cots at Williston’s Concordia Lutheran Church.

Terri works across the street from the church at Kotana Communications and was struck by the number of young men similar in age to her three sons she’d see sleeping in their cars or staying at the church. That’s when she decided to help.

“You can’t make rent cheaper. You can’t find everybody a job. But you can make them food,” Terri said.

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