East River Electric’s 59th annual fundraiser to support LifeScape was a success, raising over $37,800. LifeScape is an organization which promotes independence for over 5,000 children and adults with disabilities throughout South Dakota. The event was held as an online auction and an online raffle. Many local businesses generously donated items to the auction and cash to the LifeScape organization.
“The online auction and raffle were very successful and every year, I am amazed at how our employees step up for this very worthy cause. Commitment to Community is a cooperative value, and our employees strive to demonstrate it every day,” said East River CEO/General Manager Bob Sahr. “My thanks go out to all the East River employees who assisted with this event. We also want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the local businesses and member cooperatives that donated items to the auction and money to LifeScape. Our fundraiser was a success because of your generosity!”
East River’s annual fundraising efforts have 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 East River Employees Committee donated $1,000, a total matched by East River Electric at $1,000. Basin Electric matched the donation at $2,000 and CoBank also contributed a matching donation of $2,000. In the 59 years since the East River fundraiser began, more than $417,400 has been raised to help LifeScape provide services to children and adults in rural South Dakota.
PHOTO CUTLINE – LifeScape empowers people to live their best lives.
The Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity recently received a $600 donation from East River Electric Cooperative’s employees. Matt Tesch, East River Employees Committee Chair, said, “The Employees Committee works hard to make a difference in our communities. We hosted a pizza fundraiser and are happy to be able to donate the funds raised to Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity.”
Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in approximately 70 countries. The donation from East River will go toward construction costs for building a home in Madison. Habitat relies on such donations to help fund the work. Housing impacts many aspects of a person’s life. Those who own safe and affordable housing often have fewer health issues, have children that do better in school, and experience many benefits that impact their families well into the future.
Randy Grimsley, resource development director at Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity, expressed appreciation for the donation. “We are so thankful for East River Electric’s donation. Every dollar helps us bring affordable housing to people in this area, and the impact is often felt beyond,” said Randy. “It’s wonderful to know that people support our endeavors and look forward to continued work in the community for years to come.”
PHOTO CUTLINE – East River Electric employees present the check to Jake McGlade from Habitat for Humanity. Left to right: Justin Mikel, Alexander Kramer, Matt Tesch, Erica Fitzhugh, Jake McGlade, and Michael Olson.
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.
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.
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 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.