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DL's 'Church Basement Lady'

When the Fargo Theatre put out a call for nominations of local church basement ladies, Kathy Coyle decided to nominate Ruby Kiihn from Grace Lutheran Church, Detroit Lakes.

The Fargo Theatre seconded the motion, because Kiihn was chosen as the favorite and will not only be honored at the first showing of "Church Basement Ladies" Thursday but also will perform with the DL Cloggers, a group Kiihn formed two years ago.

"We were looking for something unique," said Margie Bailey, executive director of the Fargo Theatre, "and that was Ruby with the Cloggers. It set her apart. She seemed like a slam dunk."

After seeing a group clog a couple years ago, Kiihn and her sister decided to head up a group in Detroit Lakes. There are 10-12 cloggers at a time that perform anywhere requested -- so far from Fargo to Frazee.

"We just like to go around and make people happy," she said, listing making others happy as a personal goal.

The cloggers will be performing Thursday night before the comedy-musical begins at the Fargo Theatre.

The many church activities Kiihn participates in certainly earned her the distinction of favorite church basement lady. She serves as president of Grace Lutheran Church Women, which has "many, many projects throughout the year for fund-raising. I just love it," she said.

Some of those activities include Operation Military Project, where the women ask the congregation for items like candy, phone cards, dice, chap stick and more and then box them up to send to the troops. Kiihn said there are seven or eight "kids" from the church family serving in Iraq.

The women also participate in the Angel Tree, where names of less fortunate children are given to the church and Christmas gifts are purchased for them. They also purchase school supplies for less fortunate children.

"We've just done all kinds of fun things," she said of the group.

Bailey said besides the clogging, it's those things that brought Kiihn to the front running.

"She was a wonderful nomination -- exactly what we were looking for," she said.

Kiihn is helping organize the Feb. 10 community supper at Grace Lutheran. The church wasn't ready for the traditional fall supper because the building addition wasn't complete in time.

She is also a part of the annual rummage sale.

"I try and keep them hopping," she said. "It's a busy place here and wonderful bunch of people. No one is so important that it's 'I.' It takes we to get things done."

It's that dedication and humble commitment that leads Bailey to say that church basement ladies may look different, but they are still the same ladies running the churches for many generations.

The Fargo Theatre named four honorable mentions for West Fargo, North Fargo and Galesburg, N.D., and Fergus Falls.

"We have a good regional distribution representing that the church ladies are alive and well," Bailey said.

Regardless of the distinguished title, Kiihn said she just likes to make people happy. When the cloggers perform, especially at nursing homes, the group loves to go around and hug the residents.

"We're into hugs and visiting with the people we clog for," she said. "At this age, I don't get embarrassed too easily. I just have fun. I just love life."

The comedy musical "Church Basement Ladies" stops in Fargo at the Fargo Theatre Jan. 11-14 at 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Jan. 13-14. Call 701-235-4152 for tickets.