Laurent, S.D. — Wounded, but still alive and moving towards becoming a reality.

I just want to respond to one item from Minerva Shine [a poster on Gally-L e-mail discussion group] stating that, "laurent, sd is dead and marvin miller is more than half a million in debt."

As Mark Twain said, "The reports of [our] death are greatly exaggerated." :-)

We are still here. We are working out of my home, and we are continuing to work towards building a healthy, thriving signing community in South Dakota.

It is true that The Laurent Company is in debt, and the company will no longer be active. In debt to whom? $300,000 to our town planners, Nederveld Associates and $16,000 to deaf architect John Dickinson of Winter & Company. John Dickinson has generously offered to waive his fees. They have been — and still are — our strong supporters. They truly believe in the vision. The other $200,000 is from my partner/mother-in-law M.E. Barwacz. She and I invested our entire fortune into this project. Several close friends and family also loaned us money in expectation of being repaid immediately when our funding arrived as promised.

The funding never showed up. It was a classic case of a frog in water pot, and the frog slowly boiled to death. At least, in our case, we didn’t die — we just got hurt badly, but we are grateful to be still alive and capable of working full time on this project now. The funders say they are still working towards funding the project, and we wish them well. We are moving on without them. If they do come through for the project, our community will benefit tremendously. If not, we will still build this community and it will be a great thing to behold because of your support, involvement and so on.

We have never taken money from the signing community in general, in terms of deposits or services. We have received one unasked for $500 deposit from one person on the reservation list, and we put it in a separate savings account, untouched.

We have received over $1,000 in cash donations from the community to The Laurent Institute, a non-profit 501c3 organization. We do need more. We just received a generous offer of PowerMacintosh Dual G5 computer from Chad Taylor of in return for deferred payment at a later date. We will be working hard in the next few weeks to get the ball rolling in building our own fully integrated and fully accessible signing community, and we are confident we will have an announcement soon.

I am receiving feedback from the community that y’all want to be more involved in this process, and I agree. I have been gun-shy in involving more people because I did not want to pull you in and get hurt. I much rather that only we are exposed to the risks of this endeavor.

In meantime, perhaps y’all can help us select new board members for The Laurent Institute?

Thank you for your kind thoughts, prayers and support. Our hearts go out to those pushing for a positive, meaningful change at Gallaudet University.


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