2017 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees Recognized Today During South Dakota State Fair

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Each year, during the State Fair, South Dakota Farmers Union recognizes individuals for their selfless contributions to rural communities across the state with the Rural Dakota Pride Award.  Today, five individuals from rural communities across South Dakota were recognized. The honorees include: Donna Duffy, Winner; Bob Satter, Irene; Lorelee Nelson, Carthage; Lacey Rippentrop, Tea and Jeff Kreun, Black Hawk.

As an organization which supports South Dakota farmers and ranchers, Farmers Union understands the integral connection between those who work in South Dakota's number one industry and their rural communities.

 "One cannot survive without the other," says Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of S.D. Farmers Union. "Without thriving communities, it's difficult to encourage young people to return to their family's farm or ranch. Rural communities are key to the future of South Dakota's agriculture

Bob Satter, Irene

By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

Today, when the fire hall or cemetery in Irene needs updates or the library wants to expand its large-print selection, these non-profits look to the Irene Area Community Foundation for support.

 Valued at more than $200,000 today, the Irene Area Community Foundation was launched in 2006 by Bob Satter. A transplant who led a group of dedicated fundraisers. Together, the community raised the $75,000 necessary to receive a $25,000 from the South Dakota Community Foundation.

 "With team work, almost anything can be done," says Satter, a retired high school athlete, coach and community banker.

 Although the Community Foundation captivates Satter's attention today, since the day he and his wife, Barb, moved to the rural community in 1976, he has been actively engaged in improving the place they call home.

 "When we moved here I could see things that needed to be done, and I've always thought that if I am not willing to be the person who starts a movement to get something done, it may not get done."

 One of his first tasks was to help start a Jaycee chapter. Then, together with his Jaycee friends, Satter applied for a grant and organized community members to raise funds and donate labor to build an athletic complex - complete with baseball and football fields.

Satter's interest in sports began as a youth and grew with his skill. Slated to play college football, an injury ended his career as a competitor, but not his passion. When his three children were young, he volunteered to coach baseball and basketball.

 Forty-one years after moving to Irene, Satter continues to see things that need to be done in his community. In his role as President of the Irene Area Community Foundation he and other members of the board are able to work with other individuals who care to ensure they get done.

 "I was raised to be the best community member I can be, so it has always been my goal that I will leave this community better than when I arrived."

Lacey Rippentrop, Tea

By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

 As a four-year-old, Lacey Rippentrop was introduced to Make-A-Wish South Dakota under less than ideal circumstances.

 Her older sister, Tanya, had cancer and was granted a Wish. "In a blink of an eye, our lives were flipped upside down. We went from a typical family of five to a family who spent a lot of time apart because my parents needed to drive Tanya to Sioux Falls for frequent treatments," Lacey remembers.

 She says the Make-A-Wish trip to Hawaii helped Tanya fight cancer and gave the entire family a chance to reconnect.

 "Because of my family's experience, I strongly believe in the Make-A-Wish mission, which is to provide strength, hope and joy," Rippentrop says.

 Today, as a Wish-Granter, Rippentrop provides a similar opportunity to South Dakota children fighting life threatening illnesses and their families.

 In her role of Wish-Granter, Rippentrop makes time to get to know children who qualify for a Wish and guides them and their family through the Wish process. Before the Wish becomes a reality Rippentrop does what she can to enhance the experience.

 For example, one Wish kid wanted to go to Disney World. So, a month before his trip, Rippentrop sent him a count-down letter.

 "Each day I gave him activities, like practicing his roller coaster scream or I shared fun facts about his favorite Disney show, Toy Story. We want to make this an over-the-top experience," Rippentrop explains.

 Another way she helps enhance Wishes is as a Make-A-Wish airport greeter. Holding decorative signs, the 27-year-old gets to the airport ahead of the family to give them rock-star treatment and help them through ticketing and security.

 This can mean arriving as early as 3:45 a.m. but the MetaBank Implementation Manager says there's no better way to begin a day. "It's one of my favorite things because the Wish kid and their family are so excited. I also like to greet them when they get back - seeing the look on their mom's and dad's face and to see how much fun the Wish kid had - words cannot explain what that trip meant to them. It is always so much more than a week at a beach."

 A professional with a busy career, Rippentrop admits the time commitment can be taxing at times, but she says the kids and families she gets to know make the time commitment worthwhile. "My biggest heroes are 5 and 6-year-olds who have to fight cancer," she explains. "I try to live my life by the motto, "Do the right thing for the right reason." Volunteering as a Wish-Granter is fulfilling and what I get to do to help a Wish kid and their family is really cool.'"

Jeff Kreun, Black Hawk

By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

Jeff Kreun has a knack for taking something functional and making it beautiful.

Whether it's the Piedmont 4th of July Parade, working with teens or a motorcycle seat, Kreun generously gives of his time and talents.

Owner of Kreun Kustom, an upholstery shop that specializes in customized motorcycle seats and auto interiors, on a daily basis Kreun is asked to transform basic seat covers into works of art.

 "I enjoy the beauty that I can create when I take an ugly seat and with colorful leather and  decorative stitching make it beautiful," explains Kreun who learned how to sew from his dad who sold Singer sewing machines and his mom who owned an upholstery shop.

 During the Sturgis Rally he can be seen visiting with thousands of bike enthusiasts and taking orders. But to Kreun, custom upholstery is more than an income, he also uses his talents to engage teens.

 For several years now, Kreun has been involved in bike build projects designed to spark teens' interest in mechanics. He also helps engineering students from the School of Mines & Technology with their baha buggy and electric snowmobile contests.

 When asked why a small business owner makes time to help youth learn the skill of sewing he says, "I guess I see the world around us and most kids have a screen in front of them. I am appalled by this. It's exciting to see kids passionate about something tangible. When I see a kid light up when he creates something with his hands, it reminds me of myself when I was young."

 His business has also connected him to Black Hawk and Piedmont area community groups where he branches out beyond custom sewing. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis groups he actively helps the small Black Hills communities celebrate the 4th of July each year.

 What used to be a barebones celebration - a thin parade and fireworks display which drew about 3,000 - has grown to an all-day event which includes kids games, a pulled pork sandwich feed and draws a crowd of 10,000-plus.

 "Human connection is very important for the soul," he explains. "Now that we've created more of a family-friendly event. It's more than just a beer tent and fireworks - so people stay in town all day." 

Lorelee Nelson, Carthage

By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

 Each spring, the population of Carthage more than quadruples when community members put on a melodrama or comedy the first weekend in March.

 The tradition began 15 years ago when Lorelee Nelson was asked by the local PTA (parent teacher association) to direct the melodrama.

 "It all began when the PTA was trying to think of something to do as a winter activity in Carthage," Nelson explains.

 Since 2001, Nelson, a retired Kindergarten and first grade teacher, has selected the play or comedy, recruited community members to fill the parts and organized the planning of props and stage setting. "The joke around here is that people cannot say "No," to me," Nelson says.

 Play practice begins just after the New Year as more than a dozen community members prepare for the March performance. In addition to providing a fun community-building activity, the crowd of 400 to 500 who come to watch bring with it a free-will donation of nearly $3,000 to fund community projects.

 A big boost for a town of just over 130.

 Nelson credits her career as a teacher to preparing her for the role as director. In addition to school programs, for many years, she has organized her church's Bible School and Sunday School, Christmas and youth programs.

 And, her willingness to volunteer for community causes doesn't stop there. In coordination with the nation's first strawbale museum, Nelson is involved with the annual Strawbale Days celebration.

 When the local American Legion Post disbanded, Nelson stepped up to organize the Memorial Day program. "When we learned they would disband, I made the comment, 'We cannot drop the Memorial Day Program.' Someone replied, 'Well, you can do it then.'"

 So, Nelson plans the program and opens up her home to community youth so they can practice their songs and readings.

 Actors and singers are not the only community members welcomed by Nelson. During the work week the 79-year-old grandmother of four, provides childcare. "People say I will never stop being a teacher. I do it because I enjoy children."

 She adds, "I'd say that being involved in my community helps keep me young."

Donna Duffy, Tripp County

By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

 An Extension meeting was one of the first community activities newlywed Donna Duffy participated in after moving with her husband to Bill's family ranch near the rural  town of Clearfield.

 "My mother-in-law was hosting an Extension meeting and said, "you can come on over." That was 60 years ago and I've been going ever since,'" explains Duffy, who ended up starting her own Extension club when she moved to Winner a few years later when Bill took a job in town.

 "There weren't any Extension clubs that I knew of, so I started my own with the five gals who lived on my block."

 The Newcomers CFEL (Community, Family, Education and Leadership) Extension club remains an active service club - with Duffy and her friends engaged in projects to support local 4-H youth. "To help 4-H is why Extension clubs exist, but we also learn a lot from our meetings," Duffy explains. "My five kids were in 4-H and I think it gave them confidence and pride, when they had the opportunity to show projects at the fair. It also gave them the desire to learn."

 When Duffy started the club nearly 50 years ago, she and her neighbors were young mothers. Today, the members are great-grandmas, yet they remain true to their mission. Duffy, who is serving as President of the Tripp County CFEL works with members from her Extension club and others to organize and run the 4-H concession stand three days during the annual Tripp County Achievement Days.

 "Being involved is enjoyable. It gets me out and around people - I'm a people person."

Along with Extension club, Duffy is President of CARES, a mission program through her church, which focuses on encouraging community members who are home-bound or living in nursing homes. "People get a lot of visitors and treats over holidays like Christmas, so we make holiday treats and visit on the odd holidays - like Valentine's Day and Halloween."

 At 83, Duffy continues to live independently and helps her peers do the same by doing house cleaning for some community members who are no longer able to keep up with house work.

 "Living in a small community, if you don't contribute, the community will fall apart," explains Duffy. "We all need to do our part." 

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