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Energize! Conference to Highlight How Rural Communities are Addressing Housing, Healthcare and Other Issues

Originally authored by Kenneth Sherin, former SDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Director.

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Providing quality housing and healthcare services will be the focus of the Energize! Conference held April 30 - May 1, 2019 in Lemmon. The event is cohosted by SDSU Extension Community Vitality Team and the Lemmon community.

“Housing and healthcare often top the list of pressing issues many rural communities face.”

— Kenneth Sherin, former SDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Director.

In Lemmon, Sherin explained community members are taking progressive steps to address those issues with a new $1.5 million West River Health Services (WRHS) Clinic being built in a former grocery store on Main Street. And, with funding secured via the Lemmon Housing Authority, a new four-plex will be built this spring. 

More than a dozen presenters are on the program with sessions focused on people, money/funding, business and young adults. Among the presenters will be Ted Uecker, Fund Development Officer with WRHS, who will share more about the community fundraising effort for Lemmon’s new health clinic. In just four months, WRHS received local contributions to surpass their goal of $300,000. 

Uecker emphasizes the community focused on keeping the project local by using local contracts and subcontractors to build the facility and offering many opportunities for donors to be recognized within the facility. 

“We are focused on having a facility with a sense of community to serve the community,” Uecker said.

Anyone contributing $100 or more will be listed on a donor board to be featured in the facility’s front lobby, while donors contributing $1,000 or more will have opportunities to contribute a piece of photography, artwork or memorabilia to be featured in the facility. As well, larger financial contributors have opportunities to have their name included on certain rooms within the facility. He will share more about their fundraising approach during the Energize! Conference. 

Additionally, WRHS staff CEO Matthew Shahan, Lemmon Clinic manager Joan Pelkofer and Dr. Josh Ranum will share remarks about the development of the facility, which will offer more patient privacy, improved wheelchair accessibility and more parking. Uecker noted, “This will be a great opportunity for other communities to learn from our experiences.” 

A brief tour of the facility will also be offered; a grand opening celebration is schedule for mid-July.

Also from Lemmon, Cathy Evans, executive director of the Lemmon Housing Authority, will share her experiences in securing funding to bring housing to the community. 

Evans has worked with South Dakota Housing, and most recently Dakota Resources, for funding. Dick Werner with Dakota Resources will also share comments on the process, and Dave Johnson representing the Lemmon Area Charitable Economic Development will highlight their experiences building two spec-homes and upcoming efforts for a Governor’s house. Evans, who has been in her role for 20 years, acknowledges, “Housing is hard, but it can be done.”

More conference details

  • Jamison Berreth will share how the community of Volga, has added 120 housing units – and attracted new residents – by raising funds through TIF’s.
  • Community representatives from Wall, Leola and Eagle Butte, will highlight how they involve youth within the community, including on city boards.
  • Business owners from Tulare, Interior and Lemmon will share how they are growing their businesses in rural communities. 

Other topics to be discussed include the Chislic Festival in Freeman; a Spearfish non-profit focused on music and how Herreid, has established and evolved with its community foundation.

Nebraska native, Brent Comstock is the event’s keynote. As 23-years-old Comstock is an entrepreneur, speaker and venture capitalist. He has been involved with numerous rural businesses and champions engaging youth in rural initiatives.

Register by April 18

To help cover costs, registration for the conference is $90. Registration closes April 18. A special $40 rate is being offered for attendees under age 21 by using the promo code YOUTH. Register online for the Energize Conference at the events page and search by event name.