59th Annual LifeScape Fundraiser Planned for March 29

59th Annual LifeScape Fundraiser Planned for March 29

East River welcomes the public to support the 59th annual LifeScape Fundraiser on Wednesday, March 29. “The Employees’ Committee knows the importance of supporting non-profits in our area, such as LifeScape,” said Erica Fitzhugh, East River LifeScape Fundraiser chairperson. “We are selling raffle tickets for a Polaris Ranger and holding an online auction with items generously donated by businesses in our community.”

Proceeds from the online auction and raffle will benefit LifeScape, formerly Children’s Care Hospital and School and SD Achieve, whose mission it is to empower people to live their best lives. With more than $379,600 contributed to LifeScape over the years, East River’s annual fundraisers have helped provide for the very best in medical care, therapy, education, and other services for the children at LifeScape.

“East River Electric and their employees have been supporting kids for generations. This year more than 5,000 children across the region including all of South Dakota, southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa, and northeast Nebraska will be impacted by the generosity of East River Electric’s commitment to kids. The community’s support makes a difference providing specialized healthcare, education, residential, and therapy services in children’s homes, daycares, schools, outpatient center, and the residential school facility,” said Jessica Wells, LifeScape Foundation president. “We are grateful and honored to be part of East River Electric’s culture that gives back and takes care of the community.”

For more information on the event, visit East River’s auction website at http://www.eastriverforlifescape.org.

PHOTO CUTLINE – LifeScape empowers people to live their best lives.

SDREA Holds 81st Annual Meeting

SDREA Holds 81st Annual Meeting

PIERRE – The South Dakota Rural Electric Association (SDREA) held its 81st annual meeting on Jan. 12-13 in Pierre with more than 300 electric cooperative leaders in attendance. Nearly 100 lawmakers took part in the association’s Legislative dinner.

“Charging Forward” was the meeting theme that summarized a full slate of informative industry-related discussions and programs that covered a variety of topics, including key state and federal legislative issues, carbon dioxide emissions, implications of the current political climate and lessons in member-focused leadership.

The resonating theme of this year’s event centered on implementing best practices for delivering quality service to the system’s roughly 300,000 member-owners while also expanding economic development and growth opportunities in communities that fall within the cooperative network’s footprint.

“We should be proactive in promoting the power of our network, which finds its strength rooted in the principles that obligate us to work together to protect the collective interests of our members, whether we find ourselves in the grips of a political storm, an economic storm or an actual weather-related disturbance,” said Don Heeren, SDREA’s board president, during his annual address.

Steve Barnett, SDREA’s newly hired general manager, elaborated on Heeren’s comments: “Our principles as member-owned, member-controlled organizations are centered on striving each and every day to improve the quality of life across our state and promote prosperity in every corner of every community we serve.”

The challenges and opportunities that South Dakota’s electric cooperatives face in ensuring prosperity for co-op members and their communities were thoroughly discussed during the two-day event.

“We need to ensure that our members have the credible information and resources they need to continue providing affordable and reliable energy to South Dakotans,” said Barnett. “Each year we look forward to this time with our legislative leaders to have impactful conversations that benefit the people we serve.”

Attendees heard compelling presentations from industry leaders as well as from Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson. Sen. Mike Rounds also addressed the audience and provided an in-depth update on federal legislative issues he faces in Congress.

Kermit Pearson was presented with SDREA’s 2023 Legacy of Leadership Award. This award highlights outstanding cooperative leaders who lend their talent, time, expertise, and passion toward achieving success for their cooperatives and their service areas.

Pearson serves as board president of Lake Region Electric Association, based in Webster, S.D. He is dedicated to the electric cooperative movement and mission and has held leadership positions on various cooperative boards at the local and regional levels for more than 42 years. In addition to his involvement at Lake Region Electric, Pearson currently holds leadership positions on the SDREA, East River Electric Power Cooperative, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative boards.

About South Dakota’s Electric Cooperatives – South Dakota’s electric cooperatives provide electricity to more than 126,000 homes, farms, and businesses in the state, averaging only 2.5 consumers per mile of line.

SDREA is a member-owned, member-controlled association of 31 electric cooperatives in South Dakota. SDREA is devoted to unifying, promoting, and protecting the interests of member electric cooperatives in South Dakota by providing leadership, training, communication, legislative representation, and other member services.

Madison Izaak Walton League Receives Donation from East River

Madison Izaak Walton League Receives Donation from East River

The Madison Izaak Walton League received a $3,800 donation from East River Electric Cooperative in November. East River participated in CoBank’s Sharing Success Program and Basin Electric’s Charitable Giving Program, both of which provide matching grants, to raise the funds. Bob Sahr, East River CEO/General Manager, said, “East River appreciates the monetary support from Basin Electric and CoBank. The matching grants allow our cooperative to reach more nonprofit organizations and make a bigger impact.”

The Izaak Walton League is a national conservation club that prides itself on defending the soil, woods, and wildlife. The local chapter in Madison has around 60 members and hosts several hunting, fishing, and conservation events. The Casting for Kids event is a fishing learning experience that reaches over 100 children annually. They also sponsor and teach hunter safety courses twice a year. The league keeps up the Lake County Rifle Range and trapshoot area. They are also involved in the Missouri River Initiative, helping to raise funds to protect the waters and tributaries that flow into the Missouri River. Steve Rhoden, Madison’s Izaak Walton League president, expressed appreciation for the generous donation. “Thank you for choosing our group to receive the donation. We will use the funds for ongoing events such as Casting for Kids, 4-H and Boy Scouts events, and to repair damage from the spring derecho,” said Steve.

PHOTO CUTLINE – East River Electric employees present the check to members of the Madison Izaak Walton League. Left to right: Back row: Jeff May, Doug Spielmann, Alan Serfling, Randy Minnaert, and Michael Olson. Front row: Anne Hall, Steve Rhoden, Larry Brunsvig, and Erica Fitzhugh.

East River Electric Honored with SESHRM Workplace Excellence Award

East River Electric Honored with SESHRM Workplace Excellence Award

East River Electric Power Cooperative was awarded a Workplace Excellence Award in the Community Impact category. The Sioux Empire Society for Human Resource Management Chapter (SESHRM) honors local companies for excellence in the categories of diversity, culture, and community impact.

“Our cooperative is committed to enhancing the communities we serve,” said East River chief human resources officer Liz Avery. “East River’s employees invest time, money, and expertise in guiding economic development projects, educating students about electrical safety, and leading community events and charities.”

The Rural Electric Economic Development, Inc. Fund (REED), a non-profit subsidiary of East River Electric, is staffed and operated within the organization and owned and governed by East River member cooperatives serving eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. It serves as a community development financial institution dedicated to providing financing and helping to leverage investment and making a difference in the region. Through funding, the REED fund promotes community growth, creates jobs, builds wealth and business creation, and improves infrastructure and programs in rural areas. Since its establishment in 1996, the fund has provided over $112,000,000 in funding and grants toward ag businesses, community infrastructure projects, education, and more.

East River has developed an employee committee dedicated to enhancing our staff’s lives and empowering them to enhance others’ lives. For the past 58 years, this committee has planned and implemented a fundraiser to support the LifeScape organization. The event includes a Rocky Mountain oyster feed, raffle, and online auction. Attendance and participation in the event attracts residents community-wide, and the legacy and tradition is multi-generational. In total, more than $379,000 in proceeds from the event have been donated to Lifescape to support children in the area.

Through the Co-ops in the Classroom program, East River dedicates a full-time staff member to educating kids in classrooms all over the region about electricity, electric cooperative principles and mission, and how to be safe around electricity. Other youth programs include our Who Powers You program and the Scholar of the Week program. These provide recognition, scholarships and awards to individuals and students who are making an impact in the region.

The cooperative model, where an organization is owned and governed by its members, provides a rare and unique position for direct community involvement because those same shareholders make up the communities and neighborhoods in which the co-op operates. This kinship and connection to community is powerful, and individuals take pride and ownership in the cooperative mission. As an organization, we value employees’ community involvement in clubs, committees and boards, sponsorships, events, fundraisers, and more.

Photo caption: (left to right) Liz Avery and Chelsea Gerdes accept the Workplace Excellence Award on behalf of East River.

East River Electric Celebrates Employee’s Years of Service

East River Electric Celebrates Employee’s Years of Service

East River Electric Power Cooperative recently presented service awards to 16 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. The many years of service we celebrate today are a true testimony of the commitment of our employees,” said East River general manager and CEO Bob Sahr.

Substation and Control Manager, Doug Engbrecht, one of this year’s service award recipients, began working at East River 40 years ago. “I was hired as an apprentice meter technician and held various positions over the years, working my way up to my current manager position. East River helps people to grow within their profession, and when possible, encourages movement within the company to better themselves and the cooperative at the same time. I feel fortunate to have been able to work in the field and in the office and can appreciate the challenges that go with each area. It has been a great experience having worked closely with field and office co-workers at East River (and member cooperatives), and I couldn’t have asked for a better group to work with,” said Engbrecht.

Bob Gale, AV Coordinator, celebrated his 25-year work anniversary. “I feel very blessed to have ‘stumbled’ into this great career at East River,” shared Gale. “East River has been a great place to work and very flexible when it comes to family life. I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with and for. Everyone is kind and generous, willing to step in and help anyone out whenever necessary. I can’t imagine a better way of doing business – and a better way of life, really – than the cooperative way. It’s so much more fulfilling to work for the people that own the business than for faceless investors. To know what you do matters – even in a small way in my case – to the families and communities that receive power from East River.”

East River celebrated the years of service awards with a luncheon held at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse.

A listing of the awards is as follows:

  • Five years: Jackson Entringer, Weston Resmen, Josh Rundell, Tyler Wermers
  • Ten years: Stephen Haider
  • Fifteen years: Ken Clements, Devin O’Day, Nick Reiff, Michele Whitlock
  • Twenty-Five years: Janis Dailing, Jamie Denne, Bob Gale, Joanne Lovro, Travis Olson, Erik Traxler
  • Forty years: Doug Engbrecht

Photo caption: East River Electric service awards were presented to (back, left) Ken Clements, Josh Rundell, Stephen Haider, Jackson Entringer, Weston Resmen and Jamie Denne; (front, left) Tyler Wermers, Erik Traxler, Michele Whitlock, Joanne Lovro, Devin O’Day, Travis Olson, Doug Engbrecht and Bob Gale.

Thanksgiving Food Drive a Success!

Thanksgiving Food Drive a Success!

East River employees participated in a Thanksgiving food drive for the Lake County Food Pantry. Employees donated a combination of groceries and $60 in cash to provide 24 complete Thanksgiving meals for local families. The meals included ham, dressing, potatoes and gravy, side dishes and desserts. Thank you to the Employees Committee for organizing the food drive.