Sharon Eiseman of Strasburg, N.D., describes herself as the "part-time secretary, part-time grant writer" for a small foundation that has struggled for four years to raise enough funds to turn the sod farmhouse where band leader Lawrence Welk was raised into a tourist attraction.

So last spring when Eiseman was visiting the county office of the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) in nearby Linton, she snapped up a brochure that offered the prospect of federal grants for depressed rural areas.

Strasburg, a town of 650 in grain fields of south-central North Dakota, clearly met the definition of depressed, Eiseman said. "We've had drought for three years," she said yesterday.

FmHA officials in Bismarck, the state capital, told her that the way to win her grant was simple: "State your cause and write your congressman."

Eiseman said she did both and this week, despite the federal budget crisis, Strasburg won. Tucked into the $52.2 billion agriculture appropriations bill that passed the House Monday by voice vote was $500,000 for economic development of the Welk birthplace.

It did not hurt that the member of Congress Eiseman wrote was Sen. Quentin N. Burdick (D-N.D.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture and a key player in the House-Senate conference that wrote the Welk project into the spending bill. "Senator Burdick has a close relationship to Lawrence Welk, he has known him for years," Eiseman said.

Welk, who was born in 1903, is no longer an active band leader.

The Welk project, however, was too much for Rep. Silvio O. Conte (R-Mass.), one of the House's fiery orators, to overlook.

"What will they do for an encore? Earmark funds to renovate Guy Lombardo's speedboat? Or restore Artie Shaw's wedding tuxedo?"

Conte and Rep. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who were conference committee members, opposed the appropriation before they signed the compromise spending report.

Burdick could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a statement supplied by his press secretary, Jean Broadshaug, suggested the senator was not delighted by the sudden publicity Conte had given the grant. "He {Burdick} said: 'It is not for Welk; it's for the town,' " Broadshaug said.

Eiseman said that the town would use the money to supplement the $198,000 it has raised from private sources, including the Welk Foundation, which the band leader created to funnel money to poverty projects. The foundation, which Welk remains active in, also is retoring his family farm about 3 1/2 miles from the center of town.

The sod farmhouse in which Welk was reared is off a gravel road, which troubles town officials, Eiseman said. "In order to get your tourism and tour buses in there you have to have the road paved," she said.

Other funds would go for development of a bed and breakfast inn, which would feature the German-Russian cuisine of the region's early settlers, and a museum to tell their story. Immigrants were lured by free railroad land.

"We're all really amazed and taken aback with what the Senate has done," said Shirley Fredericks, executive director of the Welk Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif., and one of the entertainer's daughters.

Fredericks said the foundation had supported the project because it included the museum and "wasn't just for his home."

Eiseman said she had no doubt that the project could be successful and pointed out that tourists from 42 states and three countries showed up in Strasburg this summer to watch restoration at the Welk farm. "There were 2,000 of them and that was with no advertising, no promotion and no nothing," she said.

Welk, she said, "is probably the best-known thing from North Dakota."