The Madison Lion’s Club received a $5,000 donation from East River Electric Cooperative in December. East River participated in CoBank’s Sharing Success Program which is a matching grant program. East River donated $2,500 and CoBank matched that amount.
The Lion’s Club is on a mission to serve by volunteering their time to improve communities. Larry DeKramer, Madison Lion’s Club President and Transmission Manager at East River, expressed appreciation for the generous donation. “Thank you for selecting the Madison Lion’s Club for this donation. We are excited to utilize the funds for our upcoming projects,” said Larry. Locally, the Lion’s Club is involved in free eye screenings for area youth and sets up American flags in the community on Flag Day.
East River utilized a matching grant program provided by CoBank to donate $5,000 to Special Olympics of South Dakota in December. East River donated $2,500 and CoBank matched that amount.
East River Electric General Manager Tom Boyko said, “The opportunity CoBank provides by matching our donation means an extra dollar on the dollar, which is substantial. East River is proud to help support the children and adults that benefit from Special Olympics of South Dakota.”
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Sandy McLeod Breuer, a volunteer with Special Olympics, expressed appreciation to East River and Co-Bank for the generous donation. “A group of coaches took 17 athletes to Aberdeen to participate in a Bowling Tournament. The athletes really enjoy the bowling events,” said Sandy.
“East River Electric is committed to the communities we serve and donating to non-profit organizations such as Special Olympics is a way for us to stay involved,” said Megan Rummel, East River Employees’ Committee Chairperson.
On Thursday, December 6 there was a ribbon cutting for the newly built and energized substation serving the city of Hartford and the surrounding area. The new substation is owned by East River Electric Power Cooperative, which is Sioux Valley Energy’s wholesale power provider. Sioux Valley Energy takes power from the substation to serve the city of Hartford and the surrounding area. The new facility replaced the original substation which was built in 1952. It’s designed to meet the area’s projected growth while also bringing increased reliability. The City of Hartford has grown an average of 3.4 percent per year since the year 2000 and forecasts show continued expansion.
“Hartford is a vibrant community that is expanding its housing and business opportunities. Sioux Valley Energy is proud to be able to help the community grow into the future by providing reliable and safe power. The construction of this substation is a strong signal of Hartford’s continued economic and community development,” said Tim McCarthy, Sioux Valley Energy CEO/General Manger.
Construction on the new substation began in March 2017 and the facility was energized in mid-November of this year. Demolition of the old substation is planned for next summer.
Sioux Valley Energy, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, is a member owned-utility, providing reliable electric service at cost-based rates to over 25,000 homes, farms, businesses and industries in a seven-county area of east-central South Dakota and southwest Minnesota.
East River Electric Cooperative’s Madison crews removed a large evergreen tree from the yard of the same home that donated the Community Christmas Tree last year. They transported the tree from the residential area to the Dairy Queen parking lot. Employees from the City of Madison assisted East River in setting the tree. The Madison Area Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a Magical Christmas Celebration on Saturday, December 1 to light the tree.
East River Electric Power Cooperative recently presented service awards to 25 employees with years of service ranging from five to 40 years.
“I’d like to congratulate this year’s service award recipients and thank them for their dedication to East River Electric,” said East River General Manager Tom Boyko.
Mitchell Area Maintenance Foreman Merl Bechen, one of this year’s service award recipients, began working at East River 40 years ago. He started as an apprentice lineman on the Madison construction crew in 1978, moved to the Mitchell outpost in January of 1980 and eventually worked his way up to his current position of Foreman.
“When I started my job at East River, I thought this would be a temporary career until I could start farming. However, when the farming economy crashed, I realized being a lineman was something I could do long term. Over time, I was able to start farming and combine the two careers. I enjoy the benefits of both jobs,” said Bechen.
Over the years there have been many advances in line construction and changes to the equipment utilized by the line crew. Bechen said, “The new equipment allows us to work more safely and efficiently. Equipment such as the track vehicle has made a night and day difference in the work we can do.”
Bechen shared that he appreciates working for an organization that values their employees and the communities they live in. East River’s strong commitment to community and support of employees volunteering to help others creates a positive work environment. “I am lucky to have worked with great people over the years. The comradery, dedication to the work and skill set is high here. People are willing to get the job done right,” said Bechen.
Merl also extends thanks to his wife, Diane. “She put up with the long hours required with this job and always kept our life in order when I was gone for outages. I was gone a lot and I couldn’t have continued my career without her supporting me; she is a big part of my success,” shared Bechen.
East River presented the service awards during an all-staff meeting and spouses of the recipients were invited to attend. Before the awards ceremony, the group had enjoyed an employee appreciation breakfast.
A listing of the awards is as follows:
• Five years: Casey Anderson, Ryan Beyer, Anthony Dold, Erik Engelmeyer, Tyler Frost, Preston Munk, Justin Olson, Dan Rinehart and Chris Studer
• Ten years: Josh Bjorklund, Mark Hoffman, Kayla Kaup, Jason Ledeboer, Dennis Schneider and Corey Schwinger
• Fifteen years: Doug Boer, Mark Even, Clay Reagle and Travis Rude
• Twenty years: Jim Edwards, Denny Fouberg, Brian Kogel, Angie Neises and Russ Odegard
• Forty years: Merl Bechen
Group Photo caption:
East River Electric service awards were presented to (back, left) Mark Hoffman, Josh Bjorklund, Clay Reagle, Mark Even, Jim Edwards, Brian Kogel, Russ Odegard, Denny Fouberg and Merl Bechen; (front, left) Ryan Beyer, Justin Olson, Dan Rinehart, Erik Engelmeyer, Preston Munk, Tyler Frost and Chris Studer.
East River Electric Board President Jim Ryken was presented with a 20-year service award during the 68th annual meeting. The award was presented to Ryken in recognition of the 20 years that he has served on the cooperative’s board of directors.
As a member-owner of Clay-Union Electric Corporation, Ryken serves as Clay-Union’s representative on the East River board of directors and has served on the local Clay-Union Electric board for 29 years. He also currently serves as Clay-Union’s board secretary.
“We have the distinct pleasure of honoring Jim, one of our longest serving board members, with this 20-year service award. During Jim’s tenure on East River’s board, our cooperative family has experienced immense load growth, has developed innovative programs and has maintained our legacy of providing safe, affordable and reliable electricity,” said East River Board Vice President Pat Homan. “East River offers its sincere thanks and appreciation for Jim’s continued leadership within our cooperative family.”
Ryken is a graduate of the Gayville-Volin High School and attended Northern College in Aberdeen. He is a member of the South Dakota Soybean Association as well as the Clay-Union Irrigators. Ryken and his wife Margo have two children. He is a native of the Clay Yankton county area and farms south of Gayville.