East River Electric Power Cooperative, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Rushmore Electric, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and CoBank are donating $47,500 to the South Dakota Veterans Council for the State Veterans Cemetery currently under construction in Sioux Falls. The donation was announced at a lunch ceremony during East River Electric’s annual meeting. Ken Teunissen, chair of the Endowment Committee and State Representative Larry Zikmund, R-Sioux Falls, attended the luncheon to receive the check.
“We are pleased to be able to provide this donation for the State Veterans Cemetery,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “South Dakota’s veterans have given a lot for our state and our country and our state’s electric cooperatives want to do what we can to give back to them.”
In 2018, the South Dakota Legislature authorized the state to seek construction funding from the National Cemetery Administration. Of the 72,000 veterans in South Dakota, 50,000 of them live in the eastern part of the state. The nearest national veterans cemeteries are currently in Sturgis or Fort Snelling, Minn. The cemetery will be constructed on approximately 12.9 acres north of the Interstate 229 and Interstate 90 interchange off Slip Up Creek Road and 477th Avenue.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the cemetery on Monday, Sept. 9. More than 100 people attended the ceremony.
Avera Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund Tuesday announced a new $10 million workforce housing development financing partnership. Avera has committed $2 million to the partnership and REED has committed an initial $4 million, with plans to grow the total fund to $10 million. The partnership was announced at a joint press conference on September 3.
“Avera is pleased to partner with the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund with this $2 million investment in workforce housing,” said Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton. “Avera is committed to our rural roots and the communities we serve. Workforce housing has become a growing concern in rural South Dakota over the past several years and we’re happy REED is addressing this issue”
The REED Fund is a nonprofit corporation created and operated by electric cooperatives that partners with commercial and other economic development lenders to provide financing and leverage private investment in more than 69 counties throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. Established in 1997, REED is governed by 26 member electric cooperatives and assists projects that promote community well-being and contribute to employment, business and wealth creation, as well as improve the infrastructure, services and economic base.
“REED’s member electric cooperatives are excited to launch this housing development partnership with Avera Health,” said REED Board President Ken Schlimgen. “We want to assist communities in developing housing that meets the needs of today’s workforce. A partnership with Avera will help this region begin to address the urgent need for quality workforce housing.”
Funds from the partnership will be used for lending in partnership with banks and other agencies to provide loans for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities. Communities and developers can contact the REED Fund for more information on the application process.
“All business sectors including health care and electric cooperatives in rural areas are looking for highly-skilled staff,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “It can be a real challenge to recruit workforce without quality housing options. We’re going to work on solving this critical issue.”
Avera Health Chief Human Resources Officer Kim Jensen, agreed, saying, “Recruiting and maintaining talent throughout the Avera Health organization can be a challenge at times due to the rural nature of our footprint. When we start getting into smaller, rural communities it is imperative that there is quality housing that is affordable for prospective employees.”
Since it was established, REED has invested more than $100 million dollars in the region through more than 338 loans. The REED Fund and partner lenders have combined to distribute more than $858 million dollars in economic investment, 9,400 jobs have been impacted, and 2.3 million square feet of facilities have been constructed or renovated.
Photo: Central Electric General Manager Ken Schlimgen, Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton, and East River Electric CEO/General Manager Tom Boyko
East River employees volunteered their time and talents to help serve 116 meals at the monthly Gathering Meal at the Madison United Methodist Church. East River employees baked desserts or assisted with preparing, serving and cleaning up after the meal. This is a great chance for our employees to give back and live out the 7th cooperative principle of commitment to community. Thank you to everyone who volunteered at this event!
Lindsey Dockendorf of Madison is the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship from Basin Electric Power Cooperative based in Bismarck, N.D. She is the daughter of Tim and Amy Dockendorf of Madison.
Basin Electric awards 180 scholarships per year to children of member cooperative employees across the region. Dockendorf’s father, Tim, works as the Communications & Control Systems Administrator for East River Electric Power Cooperative in Madison, a Basin Electric member.
Lindsey will attend South Dakota State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in human biology with a career focus on pre-medicine. She then plans to attend the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota to receive her medical degree. Throughout high school, Lindsey participated in volleyball, softball, track and 4-H Archery. Lindsey is the president of the National Honor Society, a student ambassador and is involved in the Youth Discipleship group at her church.
“We congratulate Lindsey and her family on this tremendous honor,” said East River Electric CEO/General Manager Tom Boyko. “Lindsey’s commitment to both academics and athletics shows her dedication to attaining her goals. We wish Lindsey well as she continues her education at South Dakota State University.”
Since the scholarship program began, over 3,000 students in the Basin Electric system have benefited from this program. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic record, potential to succeed, leadership and participation in school and community activities, honors, work experience, a statement of education and career goals and an outside appraisal by a teacher or adviser.
Cutline: (Left to Right) Tom Boyko, Lindsey Dockendorf and Tim Dockendorf. Tom presents Lindsey with the $1,000 Scholarship.
East River Electric’s 55th annual Mountain Oyster Feed was a success, raising $25,000 for LifeScape, an organization which promotes independence for over 2,500 children and adults with disabilities throughout South Dakota. The event was held at Nicky’s Restaurant in Madison on March 20 and was attended by 345 people.
East River’s Annual Mountain Oyster Feed has helped provide for the very best in medical care, therapy, education and other services for the children at LifeScape. Several local children and people from around the region are served by LifeScape.
“The charity event was very successful and a direct tribute to our employees fulfilling our Touchstone Energy Cooperatives principle of Commitment to Community,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko. “I want to thank our employee committee who really stepped up and organized the event. Thanks also to everyone who helped prepare, serve, clean-up and attended the event.”
The East River Employees Committee donated $1,000, a total matched by East River Electric at $1,000. CoBank also contributed $2,000 to the event this year. In the 55 years since the East River fundraiser began, $275,000 has been raised to help LifeScape provide services to children and adults in rural South Dakota.
East River welcomes the public to attend the 55th annual Mountain Oyster Feed at Nicky’s in Madison on Wednesday, March 20 with serving beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Proceeds from the event will once again benefit LifeScape, formerly Children’s Care Hospital and School and SD Achieve, whose mission it is to empower children and adults with disabilities to lead fulfilling lives. With more than $224,000 contributed to LifeScape over the years, East River’s Annual Mountain Oyster Feed has helped provide for the very best in medical care, therapy, education and other services for the children at LifeScape.
“LifeScape is so honored to benefit from this tremendous event each year. It is so fun and so unique, and it brings the community together in fellowship and food, but more importantly, it brings the community together in support of children with disabilities. The money raised over the years has made a significant impact on the lives of hundreds of Madison-area children and their families supported by LifeScape,” said Jessica Wells, LifeScape Foundation president. “This is a tradition we love and look forward to each year. We are so grateful for this event and for the people of this community that show their compassion and care by coming out in support of this each year.”
The event’s menu will include mountain oysters, pork sandwiches, baked beans, coleslaw and dessert. There will be a raffle, door prizes, silent auction and 50-50 tickets.
“We appreciate the generosity of local businesses and the community in providing silent auction and raffle items for this year’s event,” said Elliot Shoup-Owens, East River Employees’ Committee chairperson. “East River Electric is committed to the communities we serve and this event is a great way for us to stay involved.”
PHOTO CUTLINE – East River Electric employees serve guests some of the signature fare at the 2018 Mountain Oyster Feed.