Nonprofit of The Month: Ministry on the Margins

4 mins read
Sister Kathleen Atkinson of Ministry on The Margins

Empowering Lives in the Bismarck-Mandan Community

Nonprofit organizations are oftentimes overlooked in the community due to a lack of promotional funds and advertising, amongst other reasons. To help spread awareness of these efforts being made, we feature a local nonprofit in each issue that we believe deserves a spotlight shined on the great work that they’ve done and continue to do within the community.

Founded in 2013 by Sister Kathleen Atkinson, Order of Saint Benedict, a Benedictine Sister from Annunciation Monastery, Ministry on the Margins has become a longstanding leader for individuals facing homelessness, reentry from prison, addiction, and mental health challenges. With its diverse range of services and unwavering commitment to compassion, Ministry on the Margins has earned its place as a force for change in the Bismarck-Mandan community.

I connected with Sister Kathleen Atkinson, founder and executive director of Ministry on the Margins, to discuss Ministry on the Margins’ steady growth since launching, its impact on the Bismarck-Mandan community and beyond, and much more.

Origins and Vision

Ministry on the Margins traces its roots back to November of 2013 when Sister Kathleen first entered the North Dakota State Prison as a volunteer. Witnessing the challenges faced by individuals during their reentry journey, she was moved to take action. In March 2014, with the help of dedicated volunteers, the Ministry on the Margins opened a food pantry, and their vision of supporting those during times of transition was set in motion.

“One of the men in my Bible study was released and I learned the huge challenges that someone in the reentry period of their journey faces. Responding to him and others in crisis, I was joined by volunteers to open a food pantry. Our vision remains the same to this day, which has always been to support people who fall through the cracks, especially during times of transition,” Atkinson said.

Ministry on the Margins’ impact on the Bismarck-Mandan community is far-reaching and multifaceted. Each week, approximately 1,500 individuals benefit from the organization’s services, which include a food pantry, prison-to-society support, a nighttime coffee house, and an ecumenical Christian worship service. These offerings have provided, and continue to provide, a lifeline of essential resources to individuals in need.

What Sets Ministry on the Margins Apart?

While many people are familiar with the invaluable work carried out by the Ministry on the Margins, several lesser-known aspects deserve recognition. Firstly, the Ministry on the Margins has a strong commitment to “second chance” hiring services, employing nine individuals through this program.

Driven by a volunteer-based approach, Ministry on the Margins prioritizes personal connections and focuses on addressing the unique needs of individuals in crisis. It is not defined by a physical building or a set of programs but rather by its unwavering dedication to the people it serves and their needs during times of crisis.

Additionally, their nighttime coffee house serves 50-70 people each night, collaborating with first responders to ensure safety and connect individuals with crucial services. Moreover, the Ministry on the Margins extends its reach through street outreach, employing social workers who provide vital services directly to those in need.

Two social workers go on street outreach to take services where people are, rather than expecting people in crisis to come to our offices.”

– Sister Kathleen Atkinson

Setting the Bar High

What sets Ministry on the Margins apart from similar, local organizations with similar missions is its unwavering commitment to serving all people, regardless of their circumstances. By actively reaching out to those in a crisis of addiction, behavioral or mental health, or with a felony record, Ministry on the Margins demonstrates its dedication to inclusivity and non-judgmental support.

We are open to ALL people in our services— especially those in a crisis of addiction, behavioral or mental health, or felony record.”

– Sister Kathleen Atkinson

Ministry on the Margins offers a wide variety of support services that are pushing their mission forward, including a food pantry and family support for the incarcerated, second-chance opportunities, and spiritual support.

Through initiatives such as Free Through Recovery, Community Connect, and nighttime coffee house services, Ministry on the Margins meets people halfway, in a setting they feel comfortable in to take their next steps.

Donor Impact and Ways to Get Involved

Donations play a vital role in furthering the Ministry on the Margins’ mission. When individuals contribute financially, their generosity directly supports the purchase of essential resources such as food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and employment opportunities for those in crisis. Ministry on the Margins prides itself on maintaining low overhead costs to maximize the impact of donor contributions.

Ministry on the Margins recognizes that support comes in various forms, and monetary donations are not the only way to make a difference. Individuals can contribute by donating food to over 200 households each week, offering their time and skills as volunteers, extending prayers for the organization’s work, and collaborating to provide housing or employment opportunities for those in need.

Readers who wish to support Ministry on the Margins can explore several avenues for involvement. Whether offering a day of service, making donations of food, finances, or paper products, or keeping an eye out for upcoming events and opportunities to engage, everyone can play a role in strengthening the impact of this remarkable organization.

As Ministry on the Margins celebrates its 10th anniversary, Sister Kathleen and the entire organization express deep gratitude for the unwavering support of the community. It is through the collaborative efforts and compassionate spirit of individuals, churches, organizations, and educational institutions that Ministry on the Margins continues to empower lives and create a brighter future for all.

The journey of Ministry on the Margins, under the guidance of Sister Kathleen Atkinson and the support of the Bismarck-Mandan community, exemplifies the impact that dedication and collective action can have on society’s most vulnerable. It’s clear that their efforts go beyond mere assistance—they foster hope, dignity, and a sense of belonging among those who often feel forgotten.

The achievements of Ministry on the Margins remind us of the power of community and the importance of supporting those in need through various means—be it volunteering, donations, or simply spreading the word.

Head to to discover upcoming volunteering opportunities and make a difference with Ministry on the Margins!
[email protected]
Facebook | /MinistryOnTheMargins
201 N 24th St, Bismarck, ND