Sect. 2 Our Towns 2023

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SD Service Dogs: Saving veterans one dog at a time

RAPID CITY — A South Dakota man is helping fellow military veterans and first responders one dog at a time.

“There are at least two veterans in our program who have a confided in me that they would not be here without their dogs,” said Tony Russell, co-founder of South Dakota Service Dogs. “That’s two people who are still on this earth because of the generosity of our community. That’s incredible.”

Russell, and his wife Eleanor Russell, founded South Dakota Service Dogs and officially launched the 501C3 organization on Veterans Day 2021.

Russell’s desire to form the organization came after a years-long struggle

following injuries he sustained in an accident while serving in the Air Force.

Joining the Air Force in 2011, he was a civil engineer. One day, while in Kuwait in 2018, he slipped off a piece of equipment while installing high-voltage lines in the rain. Landing on the ground, he tore his rotator cuff and other parts of his shoulder. Military physicians treated his shoulder injury but noted he had an elevated heart rate and blood pressure.

“Because I was going back stateside in three weeks they said, ‘you’re gonna survive, deal with it when you get back to the states.’”

Once back home, he went and saw a doctor, who agreed that treatment was

necessary, but since Russell was transferring to Japan, he could wait until then. He then deployed on a humanitarian mission which further delayed the treatment. It wasn’t until about nine months later that he was sent to the international hospital in Tokyo.

“I met with a Japanese doctor, and he looked at me and … said, ‘well, we found something.’ So I said, ‘what I can’t eat bacon anymore’? Something to break the tension, break the ice. He looks at me and says, ‘I’ll walk you down to surgery now.’ That was a pretty drastic step from no bacon to surgery now.”

It was at that moment that his life changed forever.

Tony Russell received his service dog Rush in January 2011. The life-changing help that Rush provided, inspired Russell and his wife Eleanor Russell to start South Dakota Service Dogs on Veterans Day 2021. Photo courtesy Rapid City Rush
The Black Hills Pioneer Page 2, Our Towns 2023

His surgery and recovery went awry.

Russell’s heart stopped while being transferred to the intensive care unit. It stopped again in a follow-up surgery, and a third time in the intensive care unit.

At one point, doctors called his wife Eleanor telling her it was time to say goodbye as Tony would not survive. Along with their 4-yearold, Jacoby Russell, and while 36 weeks pregnant with their second son, Evan Russell, she went to the hospital.

But Russell did not die. Instead, he was in a coma for the next month.

Left with a traumatic brain injury, visual and physical defects, Russell spent weeks at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and about three months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he began a long recovery.

“I had to learn to walk. I had to learn to talk. I had four days of therapy to learn to swallow water again,” he said. “The small things that we take for granted for every day.”

It was at these two hospitals that he was first introduced to service animals working with him as treatment.

“At both places I had therapy dogs involved in my care,” Russell said. “And at both places, doctors said there were days where they could look at my medical charts and say, ‘these are the days you had therapy dogs involved in your therapy. ... Your response to medical care was significantly better.’”

And then came the frustrations of working within the military’s regulations.

“They said, ‘you would definitely benefit from a service dog.’ The problem though is with the (Department of Defense) and the red tape. They can tell you that, medically it would benefit you, but they cannot provide you (with a service animal). ‘You can go to a national agency and find one, but that’s really as far as we can go.’”

This embarked him on search for his own service dog.

“I found a national agency, and I got on the waiting list,” he said.

However, that list was two-anda-half years long, “and they needed a small fee of $20,000 to give me a service dog. At that time I was desperate. I was literally battling for my life. I was trying to recover from my injuries.” It was during the wait for his name to make it to the top of the list that his life began a dark turn of events, battling depression, demons, and the will to go on.

Finding salvation

Ellsworth Air Force Base was Russell’s first duty station after enlisting in the military in 2011.

“I just knew I loved this place from the first moment I sat foot here, he said. “I knew that this is where I

wanted to end up someday. So, when we knew I was going to be medically retired we decided to come back out here.”

Eleanor has family in Hot Springs and Russell’s former operations chief, John Pruitt, who knew of his struggles, retired to the area, so Russell said it made sense to make the Rapid City area home.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, and struggling to recover from complications experienced during surgery, his life began to spiral down. He had night terrors, physical outbursts, and traumatic outbursts.

“I had got to a point I felt like I was too much of a burden on my family, which is a very real thing for most veterans who end up in that situation,” he said. “I made a decision that I was going to take my own life. I knew I was on a two-year waiting list. I wasn’t going to get help anytime soon. So there’s no help in sight. There was no end to my pain, so the easiest thing for me to do, and the best thing for my family at that time was to eliminate myself from the equation.”

Providence then found Russell.

“It was by the grace of God,” he said. “It was by my wife coming home early from a shopping trip. It was a combination of things.”

Ultimately, it was a phone call telling him that he would be receiving a service dog that he says saved his life.

It was Russell’s former operation’s chief who heard that the Rapid City Rush hockey team was raising a service dog to give a local veteran in need, and so he put Russell’s name in the hat.

In January 2020, Russell was invited to a Rush hockey game where he was formally presented with his dog, appropriately named Rush.

Growing up in western New York, Russell had dogs.

But they were drastically different to his own service animal, Rush, who is a constant companion at his side day and night.

Russell’s struggles didn’t end as soon as he received the dog, but they became manageable. And when they didn’t, Rush rushed in.

“… receiving Rush truly gave me my kids back,” Russell said. “Dealing with PTSD, my kids wouldn’t approach me in the beginning. They didn’t know when I would have a traumatic outburst or a physical outburst. Rush would come between us and form a barrier, and he would help me with night terrors, and so my rest improved. My quality of life improved with the children. Some of my mental and emotional health improved, and that just transferred into a better scenario for everyone.”

Finding purpose

Russell wanted to use his life-changing experience with his service dog to help his fellow veterans suffering from combat and non-combat related injuries and torment.

“When I got myself to a better position medically, and part of that is because of Rush, I sat down with my wife and said we’ve got to do something about this. There are 22 veterans a day committing suicide. … (In 2021) Ellsworth Air Force Base had 16 suicides with people associated to that base. It’s not something we talk about, but there are active duty military personnel who are taking their lives because of the stress that they are under. We have a $20,000 fee, and we have dogs in shelters that are overflowing. That to me just seems all we need to do is connect certain dogs and we could solve a major problem for our veterans. That’s what we set out to do. It’s a very personal thing for me.”

Thus putting Russell and his wife on a journey to create South Dakota Service Dogs on Veterans Day 2021.

Russell said working with doctors help, but not always.

“That’s not to say that medication and mental health counseling don’t work,” he said. “Those things do

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Black Hills State University, nestled in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, offers 125 programs of study. Our quality programs and passionate faculty put students on the path to the career of their dreams. The BHSU experience goes beyond the classroom, as students build connections both on campus and off for their college careers and beyond.

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The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 3
Tony Russell, founder of South Dakota Service Dogs, works with Rip, a service dog in training. South Dakota Service Dogs provides the animals to veterans and first responders in need. Pioneer photo by Mark Watson

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work. But that’s up to the individual to be involved and choose to go to counseling and take the medication.”

“A service dog is so special because the handler doesn’t have to have a choice in the matter,” Russell added. “The dog is going to interject themselves on your bad days. When you are mentally at your wits end and you are so depressed that you can’t get out of bed, the dog doesn’t care. The dog is going to force you to literally get out of bed because the dog has to eat. The dog has to go out.”

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During this interview, when Russell began talking about taking his own life, both dogs he had with him, Rush, his constant companion, and Rip, service dog in training, approached him, placed their heads in his lap, and waited for his response. A simple pat on their head, and they sensed that Russell was not in a crisis and they went on their way, roaming the South Dakota Service Dogs facility located at the Rushmore Mall in Rapid City.

“When the dogs are trying to get you out of bed, they’ll jump on you, and they will make you get out of bed,” he continued. “Both dogs have woken me up because of sleep apnea when I stop breathing. Both these dogs have a learned and responded to panic attacks.”

How do the dogs know of a pending crisis?

he said. “Right now, being vest off, both will come and check in, but at the same time they’re able to go and play and do things. But then if I need them they’re able to be right there.”

He discussed the dogs’ response to him talking about his decision to kill himself.

“That is essentially a baseline reaction,” Russell said. “So they’ll come over and sit there waiting for me to respond. Then if (either dogs) just sits there, and I don’t acknowledge him, he will actually start whining, which is kind of annoying. We’ve been given the opportunity to speak at different organizations. At times, I’ll get a little bit anxious, and he’ll sit there and start whining.

“I’m like dude you need to stop, but he’ll start whining until I acknowledge him,” he continued. “If that doesn’t get his attention, he’ll jump up on me, and if that doesn’t help he will start licking me.”

The dogs are essentially doing what he in the Air Force was trained to do.

“In the military, we train de-escalation of force,” he said. “We escalate until you get to a level that the force is appropriate and then you de-escalate that down.”

The dog does the same thing.

or who have complex situations.

Using puppies donated to the program, each animal is raised and trained for an individual with specific needs.

“We know those issues are going to be long-term and ongoing and we want to get as young a dog as possible so they have as much time with that dog as possible,” Russell said. “But then we have our rapid rescue program. That is for folks who have an immediate need for a mental health dog. They have some type of PTSD, or it could be some sort of mental health issue that we see. What we know on our end is that a good dog with no training is way better than no dog at all.”

For the rapid rescue program, Russell’s team has partnered with the Humane Society in Rapid City.

“If we have a veteran who is a need we can go down there grab a dog and have a dog to a veteran within 24 to 48 hours,” he said.

Before that crisis occurs, the service dog organization has already scouted out the dogs at the shelter, spending hours with it to understand which dogs would be suitable, their temperament, and what drives them to work – food or toys.

When it comes to training the dogs, Russell said the dogs started for the planned partnership program will be started as young as 9 weeks old. That training can take as long as two years. The person slated to receive the dog is instrumental in the process to make that bond as early as possible, but also to train alongside their companion.

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“… they can sense (the mental or physical problem) through odor detection, through chemical imbalances in your body. They can sense a panic attack or anxiety attack three to five minute before it occurs,” Russell said. “If you’ve ever dealt with anxiety or a panic attack, and you understand how debilitating that can be, three to five minutes is a huge amount of time for you to get to a safer situation or excuse yourself from the situation to a place where you can deal with it one-on-one with your dog. … They are amazing. It is amazing how in tune they are with their handler.”

During this interview, both dogs were not wearing their vests identifying them as a service animal. They roamed the facility, but would continuously check on Russell. Had their vests been on, both would have been much more attentive, he said.

“Right now, they know there’s a difference between vest on and vest off,”

“It slowly escalates until his response is the same level of your anxiety,” he said. “Then he can de-escalate himself back down. All of it to say, ‘that the trauma that you are feeling, whether it’s for some of these folks it was a warzone, or whatever your traumatic event that you experienced, you’re no longer in the traumatic event. You’re now a dog handler. I am the dog. Look at me. Pay attention to me. Tell me what you need me to do.’

Getting the right dog

So where does his organization get dogs that are otherwise unaffordable to most people?

The solution was surprisingly simple. In many communities across the country, animal shelters are full of cats and dogs waiting their forever home. That’s not to say that every dog is appropriate to be a service dog, but some are, “If we could take these local dogs, we could and pair them with the veterans, we could solve this problem why wouldn’t we? We set out for a way to do that,” Russell said. “We partnered with some people locally; we have three amazing local trainers in our program.”

Now, the organization has a twopronged approach – its planned partnership program, and its rapid rescue program.

The planned partnership program is for people in need of a multiuse dog

“There are some situations where that it is not possible because the veteran has mobility issues or some of the mental health issues. Some of the veterans with PTSD they cannot handle a puppy whining,” he said. “That’s where we have host families who come alongside and will raise the puppy to a point where that the veteran is able to come along and take over the training. That’s different for every veteran.”

Pairing the right dog with the veteran

When a veteran submits an application, a team, to include a mental health professional, an occupational therapist, a dog trainer, and a board member review the veteran’s conditions.

“They sit down and say, ‘OK, this is how we’re going to train this dog,’” Russell said.

They will go through the pool of dogs in the program and then determine what dog is going to be best for the veteran.

Even the appropriate side of the handler that the dog will post on is discussed.

From small beginnings to life-saving goals

The gap that South Dakota Service


The Black Hills Pioneer Page 4, Our Towns 2023
5 “ ”
People who are struggling are not out looking for resources. They’re in the most difficult time of their life, so we need to make the difference we need to make the resources known.
Tony Russell
Co-founder South Dakota Service Dogs

Dogs has filled has humbled Russell, he said.

“We now have over 50 dogs and 98 veterans in our program,” Russell said. “Last year, we gave 16 dogs to veterans, which to me is incredible. And absolutely humbling.”

And the help the program, which is run solely on donations, has proven it saves lives.

He said some days, he’ll sneak in the back door of the facility and watch the dogs and their handlers work together.

“I’ll watch in amazement for what truly our community has allowed to happen,” Rush said. “Without the community support of the Rush puppy and the Rush hockey team I would not have received Rush, and that was what I needed to get better and that truly sparked (the organization.)”

Applications for dogs have increased in pace.

“We’re just humbled by that. Everything is 100% donation base,” Russell said. “We’ve been able to do that and survive through a very challenging and turbulent times in our economy. With that, we’re still able to succeed in our mission and help people. Allowing people to truly see where their dollars are going. They are truly saving lives. There are at least two veterans in our program who have a confided in me that they would not be here without their dogs. That’s two people who are still on this earth because of the generosity of our community. That’s incredible.”

Training process

When most people think of training a dog, we think of commands like sit, stay, and come. If you want the dog to sit, you tell it to sit and then press down on its rump until it sits. Then it is rewarded.

“We will never push a dog’s butt down when it comes to service dogs,” Russell said.

He explained why.

There are three forms for teaching a dog actions: luring, molding, and capturing.

“Capture behavior is something that dogs already do,” Russell said. “Typically you’re going to have treats. That’s usually the best kind of reward. “They do a good sit you reward that.”

He said lure behavior is when you physically lure the dog into a position or action you want, and when it does, it is rewarded. He gave the example of sit. The dog was at his side and he held a treat in front of its nose attracting it back into a sit position. When it does this, it is immediately rewarded.

“Molding is when you play push down on their haunches, which is very effective for training animals, but when it comes to service dogs we do discourage that because of special advanced training,” Russell said.

“When it comes to that, we don’t want to mold the behavior, we want the dog to start thinking on their own. We want the dog to think, ‘if I do this behavior, what’s next?’”

So while the command sit is relatively easy to master, how on earth do you get a dog to whine on cue?

To get the dog to whine, “there are things we can do to mimic, an elevated cortisol level, or we can get or we can create an environment where we can get the dog to whine. When they do, then we reward it.”

But obviously the trainers, and service dog owners, don’t want it to whine all the time, so the timing is critical.

“The dog is doing it at a specific time. It is essentially targeted training if you will. It is not just a free-forall,” Russell said.

Pairing the dog to the handler

When a veteran submits an application to South Dakota Service Dogs, the board and other mental and occupational health officials review it to determine specific needs of the veteran. A meticulous training plan is then created catering to distinct needs and disabilities.

Dogs are trained to a certain level and then they are paired with the veteran to continue the individualized training.

Once the dog is paired with the veteran, both will undergo training until they graduate from the program. But it doesn’t end there. Quarterly evaluations are conducted until they are deemed proficient. And then there are annual check-ins and training. If something is amiss, further corrective training is held.

All dogs go to heaven

When a pet dies, the household loses a member of the family. When a service animal dies, their handler loses a lifeline. But more often, that service animal is taken off duty as they are physically and mentally


“How long can they work?

Everyone has a cell phone is the easiest way to put it. Your cell phone is going to last two to three years, and then you need to get a new one,” Russell said. “The reason primarily is because that cell phone is running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not turned on all the time, but it’s always running in the background. Even when you’re sleeping, it’s still turned on. It’s the same with a service dog. Even when they’re sleeping, they are still hyper vigilant. They’re still aware of what’s going on around them. That’s stressful on a dog. It takes a significant toll on them. For the health and well-being of the dog if you’re looking at seven to eight years of the dog for the service life of a dog and then you retire them. You give them a quality of life and retirement so that they can … enjoy the last couple years.”

But it’s not as simple as sending the dog out to greener pastures. “Retiring a service dog to another person’s home, sometimes the dog will only last a month or two and then will pass away from the depression,” he said. “Because they are so driven, and it’s so used to working with one handler for so long. And now you take them out of that environment, and now there’s that depression element and that takes a toll on them as well. So we do really evaluate the dog and try to figure out what’s the best for them. For some dogs it’s keeping them in the home with their veteran but just taking them off duty and replacing them with a new service dog.”

This can be beneficial for the second dog as it learns tasks from the first dog.

To learn more about the organization, visit .

If you are a veteran and are having thoughts of suicide, dial 988 then press 1 or visit the Veterans Crisis Line at

The Spearfish Sasquatch are part of the summer collegiate wood bat baseball Independence League. Based in Spearfish, SD, we aim to provide fans with affordable, family friendly entertainment in addition to the highest quality baseball in the entire region. Comprised of college baseball players from throughout the entire country, the Sasquatch play 58 games from late May to early August. The Independence League is home to 8 teams spanning across Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, & North Dakota! For more information visit or email

Lindsey Gillette is the owner of The Junk Drawer, and creator of anything wild, crazy or downright offensive. A long-time local of the Black Hills, Lindsey opened the doors of The Junk Drawer in 2014, as a way to support her family and let her creativity flow.

She quickly learned that she loved hearing people giggle and laugh at some of her quirky things. Soooo…. Fast forward to today. There is no other store quite like The Junk Drawer, where we LIVE for funny. Funny gifts, funny tees, funny cards, and quite frankly, anything that might put a smile on someone’s face. Let’s face it, if you’re not laughing everyday, there’s something wrong! We’re all about the good vibe, and experience you have as soon as you walk in the door!

Come down to The Junk Drawer at 611 Main St., Spearfish, and find what makes you giggle!

An independent, locally-owned and operated convenience store, owned by the Lippold Family for 22 years with 10 employees. It provides easy-in, easy-out fueling; Hot Stuff Pizza, cold drinks and ice, souvenirs, t-shirts, ATM and free air.

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The Spearfish Black Hills KOA greets you with a 5-star staff each time you visit. Camp time, relax! Enjoy our NEW couples cabin, outfitted for just the two of you or, try one of our deluxe cabins, elegant and set for living! Guests can enjoy our beautiful swimming pool or just relax at sites equipped with picnic tables and a fire pit. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, enjoy our ice cream social with creamy Cascade Glacier ice cream. The social is open to all (General Public invited and welcome!); to check prices, flavors and times, simply call 605-642-4633. And, we would like to show you just how beautiful our campground is. Feel free to stop in during business hours, check in at the front desk and get a tour of the campground!

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 5
Air Force Master Sgt. Devin Long received his dog Odin from South Dakota Service Dogs. Courtesy photo

Community Partners

Our history starts here.

In the days of the old west, Belle Fourche was a hub for cattle shipping from the Northern Plains. Today, it is still a center point for travelers coming through the corners of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. Exhibits include:

• Cowboys, Ranching and Rodeo

• The Railroad

• Sheep and Wool Industries

• Pioneer and Early Merchants

Dinosaurs and Fossils of the Tri-State Area

Temporary Exhibits

• Dress-up trunk, activity table and discovery boxes for the kids

• The 1876 “Bucksin” Johnny Spaulding Cabin

• Museum Gift Shop

• The Center of the Nation Monument

415 5th Ave., Belle Fourche, SD • 605-723-1200

Summer Hours: Mon-Sat 9 am-5 pm • Sun 1 pm-4 pm

Off-season Hours: Tues-Sat 9 am-5 pm • Closed Sunday & Monday

Sturgis City Auditorium on Main Street

Trails of History

Friday, June 16, 2023

Reception from 4pm to 7pm Booths displaying local efforts to preserve history

Appetizers | Cash Bar

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Booths displaying local efforts to preserve history Programs throughout the day Speakers throughout the day

We will celebrate trials of all kinds; from the various wagon trails, pathways, roads and highways, which have brought people and goods to the area for centuries, to the variety of modern trails which exist to bring us closer to our past. We even want to embrace more abstract “trails” which have been used over the years.

Our goal is to preserve and protect the history of Sturgis and Meade County. We cannot do this alone...this is done through memberships, sponsorships and donations. The Sturgis & Meade Country Historical Society is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, therefore sponsorships and donations are tax deductible.

Young Life began with a few simple ideas about sharing the truth of God’s love with adolescents. Those simple ideas have become time-tested methods for reaching out to middle school, high school and college students in friendship and hope. Our mission is to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow their faith.

We accomplish our mission to high students by ...

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• Working in community alongside like-minded adults (volunteer leaders, committee members, donors and staff).

We believe that life is found in Jesus and that every student deserves to know what life can hold for them.

From club and camp to Campaigners and other activities, teenagers will have a blast laughing, trying new things and being with their friends.


Save the Date for our Annual Trap Shoot

June 10th at Spearfish Trap Club

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 6, Our Towns 2023
If you wish to financially supporty YoungLife a check can be mailed to: YoungLife P.O. Box 1136, Spearfish, SD 57783 or gifts can be made online. to register go to or come out to watch and
P. O. Box 221, Sturgis, SD 57785

Community Partners

Free Family Attraction

For more than 20 years, the Spearfish Foundation for Public Education, a nonprofit, 501c3 volunteer organization, has provided grants to K-12 teachers to support enrichment learning, innovation in the classroom, and specific needs of students in Spearfish public schools. We could tell you so many stories of how children’s lives are transformed by the many programs the foundation supports.

We value and appreciate our school district teachers, staff, and administration who work tirelessly each day meeting the intellectual, emotional, and social needs of our children. These educational professionals provide our students with a top-notch education, and the Spearfish Foundation for Public Education will continue to support the school district, with your help! The schools are an integral part of the community, and students are our future leaders.


High Plains Western Heritage Center contains a five-state regional museum founded to honor the old west pioneers and the Native Americans of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.

The museum features a wide range of western artifacts including displays honoring the cattle and sheep industry, the Native American, blacksmithing, saddle making, natural history, mining, forestry, and, of course, the cowboy and rodeo.

a Cowboy Supper


Contributions in recent years have allowed for a beautiful and spacious theater complete with sound system, a Transportation Room that includes the original Spearfish-Deadwood Stagecoach, a chuckwagon, a “Tally-Ho” wagon, and buggies. Outside displays include a oneroom schoolhouse, log homestead cabin and antique farm equipment.

The Heritage Center thrives due to the many individuals and businesses form the area that contribute time, labor, materials and finances.

The Heritage Center is a unique regional venue and can be available for rent to individuals, groups and organizations looking for a beautiful and unique venue for their event.

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 7 D.C. Booth is America’s gathering place for all things fisheries – preserving our fisheries history to inspire present & future conservationists. D.C. Booth historiC NatioNal Fish hatChery & arChives Next to spearFish City park, south oN CaNyoN street, spearFish, sD VISIT THE D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives Visit. Learn. Inspire. • Black Hills Map Gift Items • Spearfish T-Shirts, Hats & Stickers • Home Decor • Educational Toys, Games & Puzzles • Regional & Historic Books • Nature Jewelry
Fish Food: Small & Large Bags • And Much More! Special 125th commemorative souvenirs and unique gifts available. TOUR THE HISTORIC VENUES SHOP IN THE POND SHOP EXPLORE THE TRAILS FEED THE FISH ENJOY YOUR PUBLIC LANDS the poND GiFt shop The Pond Shop, Booth House, Von Bayer Museum, and Fish Rail Car are open mid-May thru mid-September
Programs year round include concerts, presentations from authors and historians, and so much more all in our Bruce Miller Theater. (9378) |
Heritage Dr. • Spearfish, South Dakota
in June & September.
our website for details!
Great Events All Summer Long, Including
Watch For more information or to donate:

Community Partners

The purpose of the Senior Center is to improve the quality of life for seniors to create fellowship and better understanding between seniors and the general public by providing social opportunities through recreational, educational, and health related activities.

Everyone is Welcome!

The center is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 am - 3:00 pm with a variety of activities scheduled every day. Guests pay a small fee to participate in the Senior Center activities.

• Caramel Rolls & Coffee on Mondays at 8:00 am. Call in advance for large orders.

• Free Will Donation Lunch on the 2nd Thursday of the month serving from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm • Soup & Pie Lunch includes a sandwich and a salad on the 1st, 3rd & 4th Thursday of the month serving from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm

• Meals on Wheels serves lunch on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:30 am to 12:00 pm

Become a Member

Saturday BINGO

A fundraiser for the parking lot is held the 2nd Saturday of the month at 11:00 am.

Senior Center Thrift Store



Mission: To protect abused and neglected children through the advocacy efforts of trained volunteers.

Vision : Every child has a safe and permanent home.
















































*Active on a case in 2022 | 2023 Thank you for your service !

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 8, Our Towns 2023
• 919 Harley Davidson Way, Sturgis •
Served Daily
Rent the Facility
Monday – Friday 9:00
– 3:00
$25 annual membership fee for 50 years & older
$75/Hall, $150/with Kitchen *Reducedpriceformembers 1008 Main St.

are looking for more names to add. If you or a loved one lived in Spearfish for at least one year and served “Honorably” on “Active” duty in any branch of the armed forces, we want to add your name!

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 9 Community Partners P.O. BOX 842, STURGIS, SD 605-347-0050 | 1-800-755-8423 CISS@RUSHMORE.COM | STURGISCISS.ORG If you or
domestic violence, please reach out to Crisis Intervention Shelter Service. Crisis Intervention Shelter Services is a non-profit domestic violence organization in Sturgis, SD HERE TO WE ARE HELP. SPEARFISH VETERANS MONUMENT The Spearfish Veterans Monument organization was conceived and developed as a joint effort of members of both the American Legion Post 164 and the Queen City VFW Post 5860. The joint committee envisioned a method by which Spearfish veterans of the Armed Forces of the US might be honored inperpetuity. We
Visit for more information, to register a Veteran, or to contribute DONATIONS
APPRECIATED! Our vision is made possible by the generosity of good people
you, and we would greatly appreciate your donations. Please join us in honoring the many men & women for their sacrifices & ensure their service
never be forgotten. With input from from city planners, other veterans, construction and architectural professionals, they have designed a “living” monument to honor all men and women
know is experiencing
who have lived in Spearfish and have completed their term of service or have been honorably discharged.

$1.5B wagered in Deadwood in 2022

Eclectic, ever-changing gaming destination caters to crowds of visitors each season

B y J aci c onrad P earson Black HIlls Pioneer DEADWOOD— With 21 properties offering gaming, more than 2,500 gaming devices, and dozens of different gaming platforms, Deadwood’s gaming handle came in at $1.5 billion in 2022, continuing a tradition of eclectic, ever-changing gaming action in the Gulch.

According to year-end statistics released in January by the South Dakota Commission on Gaming, Deadwood’s cumulative handle for the year amounted to just under $1.5 billion.

“We are pleased that total handle for 2022 was only off 1.35% from 2021’s record year,” said Deadwood Gaming Association (DGA) Executive Director Mike Rodman.

Rounding out the year, table games had a handle of $86.1 million, a 5.6% decrease compared to 2021 levels, slot machines had a handle of $1.4 billion, a 1.4% decrease compared to 2021 levels, and sports wagering had a handle of $7.2 million. For 2022, the collective handle in Deadwood was $1,494,517,283, down 1.35% compared to the same period in 2021.

Rodman said the goal of Deadwood’s gaming establishments is to remain relevant to their customer base, accomplished by constantly keeping abreast of casino trends and offerings.

“Aside from the multitude of slot machines available, there is also craps, roulette, player banked poker, sports wagering, blackjack with several variations, and player banked poker with several approved variations. As far as slots are concerned, penny slot machines are by far the most popular,” Rodman said. “After slots, the ranking by popularity is: blackjack, house banked poker, sports wagering, player banked poker, craps, and roulette.”

Sports wagering is Deadwood’s newest gaming offering, introduced in September 2021 and featuring six casinos – The Lodge at Deadwood, Cadillac

Jack’s, Tin Lizzie, Gold Dust, Midnight Star, and Deadwood Mountain Grand offering an extensive catalog of sports wagering options, including: baseball, basketball, fighting, football, golf, hockey, Olympic games, racing, rodeo, rugby, soccer, and tennis.

While South Dakota did take a whack at introducing statewide online betting that would be based out of Deadwood, it failed this legislative session but it is expected to be reintroduced in the future.

“As to the failure of HJR 5006, this was not the DGA’s bill, but was brought forward by the Sports Betting Alliance. However, although we are disappointed on the bill’s failure, we supported the bill because we believed the language in the bill protected Deadwood,” Rodman said. “We also know that nationally, the option to be able to place your sports wager through your mobile device has become the most popular option. We believe South Dakota sports wagerers also want this option and we will be working with the DGA’s membership to decide on when and

how best to present that option to the voters of South Dakota.”

As Deadwood gaming continues to evolve, its historic draw is unparalleled as a vacation destination.

“Deadwood has developed into a unique integrated gaming destination because of its special blend of history, gaming, entertainment and events, along with dining and retail shopping,

nestled in beautiful natural surroundings,” Rodman said. “Deadwood is also known as a ‘hub and spoke’ for vacationers staying in Deadwood and taking daytrips to the regional tourism offerings.”

It is important to point out that underage gaming is prohibited in Deadwood, per state law:

“No licensee may allow any person under 21 years

of age to gamble, loiter in the gaming area of a casino or be present at a gambling table, slot machine or other area in which gambling is conducted unless an exemption or deviation from this rule is approved by the executive secretary,” reads the statute. “Nothing shall prevent any person under 21 years of age from passing through a casino to nongaming areas.”

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 10, Our Towns 2023
Visitors to Deadwood’s casinos bet $1.5 billion in 2022. Pioneer file photos

Chartered in 1925, the Lead-Deadwood Kiwanis Club has been actively supporting the Lead and Deadwood communities for over 97 years. We have four groups in the area: Main Club, Noon Club, Lead-Deadwood High School Key Club and Lead-Deadwood Middle School Builders Club.

Interested in learning more, please contact a Kiwanian or call 605-920-8635.

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 11 Keeps seniors thriving! SPEARFISH SENIOR CENTER At our center, we have: Social Events Birthday Celebrations Exercise Card Playing Line Dancing Crafts & Quilting Dominoes Writers Group Medical Equipment Snooker/Pool Mahjong Handicap Access Community Gatherings Book & DVD Library Education Seminars Fundraisers Rummage Sales 1306 N. 10th St. Spearfish, SD 57783 605-642-2827 Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30 am - 4:00 pm Our Senior Center is a non-profit and appreciates your tax-deductible donation. Community Partners
A local service club dedicated to providing assistance to our local youth and community. Some of the many projects we support are: 3 Boys & Girls Club of Lead-Deadwood 3 Clothe-A-Kid 3 Community Birthday Calendar 3 Community Christmas Dinner 3 Cornerstone Rescue Mission 3 Delta Dental Bus 3 Handley Center Pre-School 3 Highway Cleaning 3 Lead-Deadwood Elementary Dictionary Project & Triathlon 3 Lead-Deadwood High School Key Club & Academic Awards 3 Lead-Deadwood Middle School Builders Club 3 Meals on Wheels 3 Mile High Basketball Tournament 3 Prospector Bowl Football Games 3 Teen Court
Main Club Meetings Monday Nights 5:30 p.m. Christian Ministry Center, Lead Noon Club Meetings
Sled Haus, Lead The public is
of the month - Noon

BHSU library renovation complete

Black Hills Pioneer

SPEARFISH — Many college students utilize their schools library to read and learn, and eventually, they use that knowledge to move up in their chosen careers.

In October 2020, the E.Y. Berry Library-Learning Center at Black Hills State University (BHSU) closed for business, and received a complete interior renovation.

Finally, after lota’s of hard work from all those involved, the library opened in December 2022 and is offering all kinds of student support.

Built in 1973, the university library was in need of an upgrade in order to keep up with educational demands, according to the BHSU website.

Facilities and sustainability assistant director at BHSU, Deborah Liddick, said that the renovation has created a place where students can go to meet all their needs, whether it’s finding a quiet place to study, or meeting with their advisor.

“(Now), it’s more of an official gathering place to study and to do some student support functions in there,” Liddick said.

Business development director for AinsworthBenning Construction, Kevin Wagner, talked about the large construction project that the company tackled the last 18 months or so.

The company completed a total renovation of the existing library, along with a 4,000-square-foot addition to the second floor.

The new addition has floor-to-ceiling windows that face Lookout Mountain east of Spearfish, which Wagner said allows a lot of light to flood into the building.

Mostly, open concept, the addition has a fireplace

that acts as the focal point of the space.

“The entirety of the rest of the project was just a complete renovation of the basement, main, and then what I would call the second, or the upper floor.” Wagner said.

The project was roughly a 60,000-square-foot renovation, with 25-30 people on average working on it every day.

While the library was shut down, students were able to make use of the student union if they needed to study on campus.

The library now contains a career center, tutoring center, writing lab, math lab, innovation lab,

help desk, professional advisors offices, and study rooms.

The furniture in the building includes couches, “comfy” chairs, and desk cubicles.

“There’s a place for whatever style studying you want. If you want to by quiet, or you want to be like a people-watcher and see who’s comin’ in, there’s places to sit and watch people, and study,” Liddick said. “You can be seen or not be seen.”

With 11 study rooms throughout the building, multiple students are able to meet in groups at a time, without disturbing others studying individually in the library.

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 12, Our Towns 2023
E.Y. Berry Library-Learning Center receives complete interior remodel. Pioneer photo by Sidnee Short

Deadwood Chamber of Commerce Recognized as one of the most Progressive Tourism Organizations in South Dakota


A&B Pizza Abbott House

Alpha 6 Inc.

Best Brews




Black Hills Fishing Guide

Black Hills Open Top Tours

Bluepeak Booth Society Inc.

Boston's Pizza Restaurant & Sportsbar

CS Consulting Services

Dakota Gold Corp

Deadwood Badlands

Deadwood jeep Tours

Destination Step On Guide Service

Durty Nelly's Events Inc.

G&G Garbage & Dakota Dumper Giddy-Up and Go Grandview Getaways

IAM Seminars

Ichiban Express at Tin Lizzie

J&J Hospitality

Jacob's 1895 Penthouse

Johnson Brothers Western Wholesale Kickstands Campground and Venue LaPrade Construction

LLC - Lead Country Club

Mountain Air Mechanical


• Internet Directory Listings & Links - Award-winning website with over 1 million unique visitors per year.

• Membership Official Guide Listing - 80,000 printed annually. Large distribution across a four-state region in 550+ locations. Also distributed to meeting planners, travel shows, mailed to individual inquiries, included in relocation packets and downloaded thousands of times on annually.

• Membership Electronically - Chamber membership list.

• Relocation Inserts - Provide us with your information and we will mail it out with our initial replies.

• Convention Welcome Packets -We will include your information in thousands of attractive welcome packets to conventions and meetings held in the city and surrounding communities.

• Monthly Mixers - A personal invite to all monthly mixers with an opportunity to share your business information and talents with our members in a relaxed atmosphere.

• Visit & Ribbon Cutting - Put your business in the news with a visit from the Deadwood Chamber Staff.

• FAM’s - Familiarization Tour host. Deadwood is asked to host many tour group leaders, travel agents and travel writers to familiarize them with our area. Only members are included.

• Economic Information - Community profile, demographic information, general business statistics and business development assistance.

• Annual Events - The biggest and best events in the region bring tens of thousands of people to the area.

• Welcome Center Board Room - Free use of the board room for business meetings.

• Wild Bill Coupon Booklet - Thousands of coupon books are printed and distributed to Deadwood visitors each year. It is a one-time only coupon and entitles discounts or special promotions from participating Chamber member buinesses.

• Free Publications - Each year the Deadwood Chamber prints, distributes and mails multiple promotional pieces featuring Deadwood Chamber businesses including: Visitor Guide, Deadwood Map, and more, only available to members.

• Deadwood Gold Bucks - Chamber member gift certificate redemption program.

• Training Program - Free training programs are available to Chamber members, their managers and employees. Available programs include: hospitality training for frontline employees, hospitality training for owners and managers, and FAM tours for frontline employees.

• Information Centers - The Deadwood Chamber manages the information centers in Deadwood and only our members are featured. Nearly 200,000 people visit the Deadwood Visitor Centers annually.

Naja Shrine

Papa Bear's Bakery

Seth's Cellar

Smokin' Jay's Saloon

Southern Hills Publishing


Stardust Fest

The Landmark Casino

The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs

Trails Head Cannabis Co.

Trailshead Lodge

UTV Rentals of the Black Hills


Vanocker Campground

Western Legacy Foundation


Louie LaLonde – President • Michelle Fischer – Vice President

Tom Koth – Secretary • Susan Kightlinger – Treasurer

Tom Rensch

Kip Mau

Lonnie Strong

Steve Schaeffer

David Schneiter

Carolyn Weber

David Ruth Jr.

Leo Diede

Erik Person

Kevin Kuchenbecker

Jeanna Dewey

Mike Rodman

David Knight

Jim Burgess

Vicki Dar

David Knight

Dr. Erik Person


Lee Harstad, Executive Director

Dawn Burns, Sales Director

Robin Carmody, Information Specialist

Dory Hanson, Controller

Ingrid Hayward, Membership Director

Amanda Kille, Marketing & Sponsorship Director

Sarah Kryger, Event Coordinator

Levi Kessler, Marketing and Communication Specialist


Bobby Rock, Outlaw Square Director

Collin Hockenbary, Operations Manager

Operations assistants: Kemper Whiton, Raven Gokce, Warren Burke, Maliki Plaggermeyer


Tessa Allen - General Manager


Guy Gregory, Information Center Manager

Ally Scheurenbrand, French Bryan, Jean Mackley, Darcy Latuseck, Kinsy Selby

For more information on Membership with the Deadwood Chamber, call 605-578-1876.

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 13
501 Historic Main St. Deadwood, SD 605-578-1876

Spearfish volunteers still answering the call to service

But fire department, civic clubs always looking for new members

Special to The Pioneer Businesses across the country report difficulty finding employees. How about organizations that rely on unpaid help — volunteers?

A 2022 report from Gallup said volunteering had not recovered from pre-pandemic levels for either religious organizations or other charities.

“Thirty-five percent of Americans report volunteering for a religious organization in the past year, down slightly from 38 percent in 2020 and well below the 44 percent from 2017,” it reported. “The current figure is the lowest in Gallup’s trend, although not meaningfully different from 37 percent readings in 2008 and 2009. Forty-seven percent of Americans say they volunteered their time for a secular charity in the past year. That is slightly higher than the 43 percent measured in 2020 but still down from 50 percent in 2017.

In the Northern Black Hills, agencies have mixed reports on volunteering. While the Spearfish Fire Department strives to keep its volunteer numbers up, other local organizations say they continue to be supported by locals willing to pitch in and help even without being paid for it.

The city of Spearfish has numerous opportunities for volunteers. They can donate their time to work at the Spearfish Recreation and Aquatics Center, the Spearfish Public Library, for parks and recreation, the police department and the fire department. Applicants must fill out a form on the city website to apply.

In addition, volunteer opportunities are occasionally available for the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Advisory Board, Library Board of Trustees, Council on the Arts and Humanities, Historic Preservation Commission, Arts in Public Places Committee and Planning Commission.

Heath Brown, the fire department’s recruitment and retention coordinator, is one of three full-time paid employee employees, along with Fire Chief Scott Deaver and wildland fire Capt. Travis Eddy. Two or three full-time wildland firefighters are hired each summer as well.

But the majority of the work is done by volunteers, who are paid a modest stipend for each fire, accident or incident they respond to, Brown said. There are about 50 volunteer firefighters now, he said, but the department is constantly recruiting. It would like to have about

60 on staff and ready to answer a call.

“Sixty is what we go for. Even then, it depends on how they can respond,” Brown said. “A lot less people can respond during the daytime. Even with 60 who can only go during the night, it can leave us a little short-handed.”

The department responds to an average of between 300 and 400 calls a year, he said, everything from fires to vehicle accidents, rescues and search and rescue calls. They put in a minimum of an hour a week for a meeting or training, but responding to calls can add up to 20 hours a week or more.

Sean Davis of Spearfish said while his specialty is driving a truck — he works as a ready-mix concrete driver for Croell — he does what is required at each fire.

“As a firefighter you’ve got multiple roles,” Davis said. “You really don’t know who’s going to show up for a fire. You’ve got to know it all. It’s different with a volunteer department.”

That means sometimes he’s at the wheel of a fire truck, other times he is pulling a hose or headed inside a burning structure.

Davis has been a firefighter for a year. He almost joined a department in Kansas City, Mo., almost two decades ago, and kept the dream alive in the back of his mind.

A couple years ago, Davis, 41, went through a “midlife crisis,” he said with a laugh.

“When I turned 39, I decided to get

my CDL. I always wanted to drive a truck,” he said. “And I thought I could put it to use for the benefit of the community, being able to drive a big truck.”

He works for Croell during the day, but truly enjoys his time with the fire department. He said he bonded with the other new firefighters he trained with, and has found the veteran firefighters to be friendly and welcoming.

Turnover is a constant factor, Brown said, as firefighters retire, die, choose not to remain with the department or move away. That’s why finding new members is a crucial part of his job; he is paid through a grant to recruit new firefighters.

Another factor is firefighters who cannot get away from their jobs to respond to a call.

“That’s a big issue we have,” Brown said.

He understands companies are dealing with worker shortages as well, so it’s difficult for them to allow employees to leave and answer a fire call. So he keeps trying to sign up new members.

“In the last year, we’ve had four volunteers, maybe five volunteers come in,” Brown said. “We need to keep numbers steady. We’re always recruiting.”

The department approaches businesses and Black Hills State University to find firefighters, he said. It also is building a new training facility to interest people, Brown said.

“We’re toying with new ideas and new ways to incentivize people to join our department,” he said. “But we’re kind of relying on the people to do more, do more with less people.”

Davis said he relishes the chances and the challenges. The firefighters rely on each other and develop incredible camaraderie.

“I love it. I think it’s great. It’s truly something I look forward to, whether it’s just a meeting or going to a fire with my brothers and sisters,” he said. “It’s a tight-knit family.”

That attitude is one reason many people volunteer.

The National Day of Service and Remembrance was created in 2009, as the federal government wanted to encourage the public to honor the victims by making a difference in their communities.

MyGoodDeed, a nonprofit that represents a coalition of service organizations, advocated for National Day of Service and Remembrance. In 2019, it reported that more than 30 million Americans participate in some way each year, making the holiday the biggest event on America’s charitable calendar.

Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit faith-based organization providing local human service programs and opportunities for individual and community involvement.

Laura Hamm works at its Rapid

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 14, Our Towns 2023
Most of South Dakota’s fire department force, including all departments in the Northern Hills, consist of mostly volunteers. Pioneer file photo

City office. The organization, which was founded in 1896, opened a Spearfish location on Thursday, March 2.

Hamm said VOA does “a variety of things,” including supporting people who are HIV-positive, assisting veterans, aiding the homeless and families in poverty, operating a food pantry and Mommy’s Closet, which has diapers, wipes and formula for kids 5 and under.

“We’ll have volunteers come in and package wipes and diapers for a month,” she said. “We’re always open to new ideas.”

Volunteers of America also does Point In Time, an annual census of the homeless that is required by the U.S. Department of Housing of America. The data is provided to South Dakota Housing.

Hamm said the pandemic did not impact their volunteer numbers too much.

“Most of our volunteers were willing to follow COVID procedure and things like that,” she said. Why do people volunteer?

“I think it’s a combination of things. We have a very strong mission and people believe in that mission,” Hamm said. “I think people really believe in that and want to be part of the solution. We work with a lot of service organizations.”

To volunteer, go to https://www.

Cindy Riley, an SDSU Extension 4-H Youth program assistant based in Belle Fourche, said they still have a dedicated group of people willing to help kids.

“Our volunteer base is holding pretty strong,” Riley said.

The new 4-H year started in October, she said, and about 85 to 90 volunteers in Butte and Lawrence counties are actively involved. They work with young people on programs involving livestock care and management, shooting sports, sewing, food and nutrition, visual arts and more, including chicken embryology classes.

Riley said the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t reduce the number of volunteers. She did not witness a shortage of people showing up to assist kids.

“We actually didn’t,” Riley said. “We stayed pretty strong during the pandemic.”

Janelle Jones, past president of Spearfish Kiwanis Club, said their membership has declined in recent years.

“I would say the numbers are down,” Jones said. “We juggle the way we do things.

She said winter is particularly challenging.

“This time of year, we have a lot of snowbirds,” Jones said. “We notice that this time of year.”

Spearfish Senior Center volunteer Bonnie Fugate said several people continue to support the cen -

ter by donating their time.

Fugate, 90, was working as a greeter on Monday, Feb. 27, when she discussed why she volunteers. She enjoys being around people, and likes to help, she said.

Before moving to Spearfish, Fugate volunteered at the senior center in Brecksville, Ohio. Now, she regularly goes to the local senior center at 1306 N. 10th St. to offer a helping hand.

Fugate said the Spearfish Senior Center serves a lunch on the first Friday of the month for people 50 and older marking their birthdays that month, and offers a fundraising breakfast for anyone 50 and older interested and hungry on the fourth Saturday of the month.

Caramel rolls and coffee are served every Thursday morning, according to Executive Director Stephanie Crago. Three rummage sales are held annually, and 30-40 volunteers work together to make that a success.

The center, which is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, is busy during the day with people playing cards — “cards are big here,” Fugate said — shooting

pool and talking. Lectures, dances and other programs are offered on a regular basis, she said.

“We do real good,” she said.

Fugate said there is a core group of people who volunteer. Crago said it’s hard to come up with a number, but dozens of people, including many of the center’s 400 members as well as community members, lend a helping hand.

The center was closed for most of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, but when it reopened, the volunteers were there, she said.

“We have really committed members to our senior center,” Crago said. “They couldn’t wait to get back to doing what they do and serving the community. We just live in such a great community here. People over 50 are more social, they grew up being social.”

She said while younger people spend a lot of time online and socialize and communicate that way, older folks are more interested in getting together in person.

“My seniors are more face-toface,” Crago said. “I never really lost those people like others say they did.”

With over 50 years of legal experience, Johns and Kosel Prof. LLC Law Office is dedicated to the preservation of a citizen’s constitutional rights and will fight to represent you. If it is important to you, it is important to them. Engaged in the general practice of law, Johns and Kosel Prof. LLC Law Office is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Attorneys Timothy R. Johns and Joseph M. Kosel provide the following services: appellate advocacy, business law, constitutional law, contract law, criminal defense, family law, mediation and arbitration, wills, trusts, probate, and estate planning. Johns and Kosel also has several notary publics available.

Joel & Molly Blair were both born and raised in Western South Dakota. They opened MJ's Market in 2021 after moving back home to Belle Fourche. They have an awesome selection of toys, gifts and other unique options. CBD is also one of their top categories. In addition to these they carry skin and hair care, makeup, dental and shave items, cards, cleaners, laundry, pet, first aid, vitamins, medicines, CBD products. They carry local brands as well as national brands such as the Naked Bee, Burt's Bees, Mrs. Meyers, Dr Squatch, Covergirl as well as tons of others.

Men, women, and kid’s apparel with a Western flare! There is something for everyone in our store. We pride ourselves on knowing we supply the best apparel and customer service. Located at 506 State Street in Belle Fourche we are celebrating 5 years of being in business in our storefront. We have created a store that will give each person a true Western experience and leave them happy they stopped by. Bring the whole family to get outfitted for the spring & summer seasons. We look forward to meeting you! (605) 892-9089


The Silverado Franklin Historic Hotel & Gaming Complex offers super slots, great prizes, fantastic meals, and unique lodging experiences. Voted Best of the Black Hills for card tables, slots, prizes, casino, & Legends Steakhouse, guests can stay in historic hotel rooms, enjoy a meal at Legends Steakhouse or the Silverado Grand Buffet, and take in all the gaming Deadwood has to offer — all at one complex. Setting the Silverado Franklin apart and making it even more unique are employees with friendly, smiling faces who are always willing to help. Stop by and see us at 709 Main Street in Deadwood, call us at 605-578-3670, or

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 15
visit our website
The need for volunteers, from ambulance crew members, to 4-H leaders is high. Pioneer file photo

Educator crunch While the need for teachers rises, applications dwindle

Black Hills Pioneer

NORTHERN HILLS — With the once-robust quantity of teacher applications dwindling as positions at the helm of the classroom open up and college graduates to fill the educator pipeline in a similar decline, local school districts are navigating the shift to a tighter labor pool, not only in the teacher arena, but other areas of school district operation, as well. Local area superintendents shared their thoughts on the educator crunch and ways their districts are mitigating the shift.

Spearfish School District

Spearfish School District

Superintendent Kirk Easton said his district is experiencing teacher shortages in the areas of special education, science, and math.

“A new shortage that we are experiencing as well is school counselors,” he said. “We have advertised for a few weeks for a couple of school counselors and have only received two applicants. When these folks can make more in private practice than in a

school, it’s hard to blame them. Also, the past couple of years it has really been difficult to fill all of our para-professional positions as well as all of our custodial positions.”

Easton attributes the teacher/ school district employee shortage to obvious, as well as underlying factors.

“I think we could certainly point towards teacher pay as a leading contributor to less folks wanting to go into the profession or leaving the profession,” he said. “However, there is a lot more stress placed upon a teacher, as well, that contributes to the decline. Educators have been asked to do more with less, they have encountered more adverse student behaviors, they receive less parental support, and see the politicization of our schools as an attack on the profession.”

In regard to how it affects district operations, Easton said when it comes to para-professionals, the shortage really affects the ability to work with students individually or in small groups.

“The teacher is not getting the assistance to provide additional support for those students in need. As for custodians, as you can imagine it puts more stress on our custodial staff to

keep each building as clean and operational as possible.

Mitigation measures Easton sees as a solution are two-fold.

“Certainly, more funding to schools so that we may increase salary and benefits will help, but we also need to reduce the stressors on those already in the profession so they choose not to

leave,” he said.

In regard to substitute teachers, Easton said each year, it seems to get a little worse.

“This is another arena that the pay needs to be addressed, as well,” he said. “We do our best to increase that

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EDUCATOR CRUNCH Pg 17 School districts in the state used to received many applications from prospective teachers and staff members. Now, sometimes it is only a couple who apply for jobs. Pioneer photo by Mark Watson


pay to stay competitive, but number of people wanting to serve in that capacity is shrinking.”

All teaching positions in the Spearfish School District were filled for the 2022-23 school year.

“However, we were unable to fill at least eight of our para-professional positions and always seemed to be down a custodian or two during different parts of the year,” Easton said.

One other important factor to consider occurred to Easton when he recently attended the Black Hills State University (BHSU) teacher fair.

“I saw booths from school districts from Alaska, Nevada, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, Arizona, Montana, and of course South Dakota,” he said. “When the out-ofstate districts all list a higher starting salary than in state districts, it’s hard to keep these young professionals in our state.”

Lead-Deadwood School District

Lead-Deadwood School District Superintendent Dr. Erik Person said he would attribute the decline to a couple of different things.

“One is an overall shortage in our labor market. The school district employs people other than teachers … and it’s hard to get help anywhere,

That’s one thing,” Person said. “The second thing, I think, specifically to education, is the amount of education required, compared to the salaries. And this isn’t a new problem. Teaching jobs, I mean, it’s a good living and they’re good jobs, but they’re not at the high end of your bachelor’s degree jobs out there. They’re not at the high end of your master’s degree jobs. Our salaries are just not at the top of competitive markets. When you get an already-tightened labor market, that’s exacerbated.”

Person said another challenge is the attitude toward education in today’s society.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “It’s a good thing to have more parental involvement. I think transparency is a big thing in education. Parents absolutely have a right to know what we’re teaching their kids. But there has been a hostility towards education and educators that’s a growing hostility that we’ve seen for sure over the last decade. And I don’t think you can weigh one political ideology over the other … with all those things, it just doesn’t seem that appealing. A lack of respect for the profession.”

Person said to put the teacher shortage into perspective, the LeadDeadwood School District is getting applicants for teaching positions.

“But the number of applicants compared to what we used to get – and that’s in schools everywhere – the number of applicants, the stack is

pretty thin,” Person said. “So that would probably speak a little bit to the quality of the applicants. It’s just a numbers game … the numbers are there, in theory, to fill the jobs, but just like any other sector out in the workforce, if you’re forced to hire whoever applies, it’s not a great situation. We’d like to have some selection.”

Person went on to say that with teaching, it’s not just finding the best candidate.

“It’s also finding the right fit for your school, your community,” he said. “You want to find the right person that’s going to fit and then your school’s going to be the right fit for


Person said the culture war that is being waged in schools is disheartening to him, as well, and is taxing for those in the profession.

“I just wish we could find a way to check that at the door,” he said.

Person said that in order to mitigate the shortage, perhaps greater flexibility in alternative certifications might be a starting point.

“So if people have been out in the world, had a different career, and they wanted to transition into education, maybe some flexibility to make it not so cumbersome for those people to get into the profession, take some of that


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from Pg 16
The need for more teachers is high demand. Pioneer photo by Mark Watson

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red tape out of there,” he said. “Another thing would be reciprocity – if another state has licensed you as a teacher, we’re going to license you in South Dakota. Maybe that would help some. But overall, there’s a teacher shortage across the country. So I think one of the long-term solutions we need to look at is working harder to grow our own.”

Person said a focus on the positive is integral to the educator recruitment process.

“I think we need to do a better job as educators telling our story of what an awesome career this is,” Person said. “You have the opportunity to shape young lives and I mean that in a positive way. As a teacher, you have the opportunity on a daily basis to interact with these wonderful young people and inspire them to do great things and there’s nothing like that connection you make with a kid and they’re going to do something positive in the world, in part, because of their interaction with you. That’s better than any money. And we need to do a better job of telling that story.”

Belle Fourche School District

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Belle Fourche School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Willard said there is, basically, a shortage in all areas of his district’s operations and cited low pay comparative to other jobs and the lack of affordable housing as contributing factors to the lack of teachers in our region.

“A staff shortage creates the need for innovative scheduling measures for counselors and principals,” Willard said. “It also reduces some class offerings especially in the middle school and high school.”

Willard said that while his district was able to fill positions this year, every year it becomes a greater challenge.

“In past years, we might have a pool of six to seven applicants for a 9-12 position,” he said. “Now we have one, maybe tow. In grades K-8, where we might have 10-15 applicants for a position, we are now getting under 10 applicants. Positions such as SPED, math, science, CTE, and music are very difficult to fill.”

Willard pointed to two programs currently being developed to mitigate the teacher shortage. “Educators Rising is a program that is introducing high school student to opportunities in the field of education. Travis Lape is the director,” he said. “The DOE is also starting a Teacher Apprenticeship program. Don Kirkegaard is one of the project directors.”

Meade School District

Meade School District Superintendent Wayne Wormstadt said for this year, all open positions have been filled, but that his district is similar to many others struggling to get applicants in all areas.

“We have been fortunate,” he said. “Though we have fewer applicants, we have had quality hires.”

Asked what he would attribute the teacher/school district employee shortage to, Wormstadt offered the following.

“Working within a school system is a great profession that makes a difference to students, families and communities. Whether a person works in food service, custodial, secretarial, paras, driving bus, coaching or teaching you have an opportunity to help children,” he said. “With our current needs for employees in direct competition with the private sector with a low unemployment rate, we struggle to find many applicants. We see this the most with teachers not entering CTE areas -- science, math and computers -- as many do not choose education as they can make more in the private sector. While wages may be lower than other private sectors the benefits within public education are very competitive.”

In regard to how the shortage affects district operations, Wormstadt said it can create more burdens as staff pick up extra duties and that to mitigate the shortage, retention of current teachers needs to be a focus.

“We tend to squeeze other budget items in order to find more money to put towards employee compensation,” he said. “We need to celebrate the overwhelming great things our staff does for students. The Meade School District has great employees supporting students and we need to support our staff. The other area is how do we increase wages to be competitive with the private sector and recruit to the profession. Our investment in the school system and staff is a long-term

Educators Rising seeks to bridge educator gap

NORTHERN HILLS — The solution to the educator shortage may be sitting in the very arena they could one day benefit— classrooms across the state — and a program designed to inspire those with an interest in post-secondary education fields is striking while the iron is hot.

Belle Fourche School District Superintendent Steve Willard pointed to two programs, one in development, to mitigate the teacher shortage.

“Educators Rising is a program that is introducing high school student to opportunities in the field of education. Travis Lape is the director,” he said. “The DOE is also starting a Teacher Apprenticeship program. Don Kirkegaard is one of the project directors.”

Lape said Educators Rising South Dakota strives to help inspire the next generation of educators and started five years ago as a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO).

“CTSOs can provide a powerful platform for students to develop leadership skills, gain real-world experience, and prepare for careers in a variety of industries,” Lape said. “These organizations offer students the opportunity to participate in a range of activities and competitions that can help to build their skills and confidence and provide networking opportunities with industry professionals.”

Educators Rising South Dakota is helping schools set up their own Grow Your Own (GYO) programs to support and strengthen the education pipeline in their community.

“Almost 60 percent of teachers live and work within 20 miles of where they grew up,” Lape said. “Our future teachers in our communities are right in front of us. GYO programs are designed to help identify and cultivate potential teachers from within local communities, including high school students, paraprofessionals, and other community members. Educators Rising South Dakota hosts many events throughout the state to bring together students interested in the teaching career.”

Events include Learning Expos, Fall Leadership, State Conference, and Teacher Signing Day.

“Our final big event is Teacher signing day in May during teacher appreciation week,” Lape said. “This is an opportunity for our seniors who are going onto a teacher prep program to be celebrated in a fun event. High schools across the state have done this the past few years.”

By starting an Educators Rising chapter, schools can help provide resources and support for those interested in pursuing a career in teaching.

“This can include offering mentoring and coaching opportunities, providing access to resources such as workshops and training sessions, and connecting aspiring teachers with local schools and districts,” Lape said.

In addition, an Educators Rising chapter can help to raise awareness about the importance of GYO programs in addressing teacher shortages and improving the quality of education in local communities. By promoting the value of GYO programs, you can help to build support for these initiatives and encourage more people to consider a career in teaching.

“Overall, Educators Rising South Dakota is looking to address the teacher shortage as one way to help build a strong and vibrant education community in our state,” Lape said. “By providing support and resources for aspiring teachers, we can help to ensure that the next generation of educators are prepared and equipped to meet the needs of students and communities.”

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 18, Our Towns 2023
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The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 19 Business and Personal Tax Returns Monthly Bookkeeping Services Payroll Related Tax Reporting Compilations and Reviews Financial Planning Greg Hollibaugh, CPA • Mandi Tipton, CPA 617 Dahl Rd. Ste. 1, Spearfish, SD 605-642-4473 • The Coffee Stop at Exit 14 2535 E. Colorado Blvd., Spearfish, SD Mon.-Sat. 6:30am-2:00pm Monthly Specials Dark Canyon Coffee Lotus Energy Drinks Muffins and Oatmeal Plus More! SUNRISEBUZZ605 10941 SD Highway 34, Belle Fourche • (605) 892-3472 BELLE FOURCHE COUNTRY CLUB GREEN FEE WITH CART Summer May 1-September 30 Weekday 9 Holes ...........$52 Weekday 18 Holes .........$72 Weekend 9 Holes ...........$52 Weekend 18 Holes .........$72 GROUP/OUTING RATES 16 Players or More 9 Holes .........$5 OFF Current Rate 18 Holes .....$10 OFF Current Rate DRIVING RANGE $5 for Each Token $50 Twenty Token Range Card 10 ROUND PUNCH CARD $350 Including Cart $300 Walking 20 23 GOLF RATES For more information, or to make a tee time, call 605-892-3472 GAME ON!
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Habitat for Humanity on track for three homes to be built in Sturgis in 2023

B y t i M P otts

Black Hills Pioneer STURGIS — Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity (BHAHFH) is on track to build three houses in Sturgis in 2023 that will assist families in need of affordable home ownership. Sabrina Whitford will be the new owner of the home currently being constructed, that likely will be done this summer.

“I prayed for a home for a long time and have been working for it, and saving for it, but when it came time to ask my bank, it just was not an option quite yet, so I sent my application to Habitat and they accepted me,” said Whitford. “Not many words can describe what it means to me and my family, we are so blessed and thankful.”

Whitford said she encourages other people to consider Habitat as a way to get a home. “Just keep believing in miracles and don’t give up.”

The Mission statement of Habitat for Humanity is: Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope. “I think it is really important for people to understand that Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity was started by church leaders and we are a deeply committed Christian organization that is motivated by the love of Christ, so we show that love through housing. We show it through coming along side people that otherwise would be rejected for a home ownership opportunity. We move from a Christian conviction.”

Habitat for Humanity is a faith-based non-profit organization that depends highly on access to affordable land to build on, capital to purchase materials, and volunteers who can help reduce the hard costs of the construction of the home. The last piece is finding qualified applicants,

people who are earning less than 80% of area median income, are willing to partner with Habitat for Humanity, and have the ability to make an affordable mortgage payment each month. After applicants are qualified, they work through the program requirements including courses that cover finances, budgeting and home maintenance and spend hours on the construction site learning basic construction skills. It is a combination of those things and when most of the pieces came together, the project in Sturgis started to move forward.

“When there is a real obvious need, that certainly puts a fire under us to go out and do everything we can on our end to find solutions,” said Scott Engmann, executive director of Black Hills Habitat for Humanity.

“Most recently in the Sturgis area, the impetus was two families from Sturgis, who work in Sturgis, that needed a place to live and raise their families, they qualified and that got us focused in Sturgis. We started reaching out to land owners and identified an affordable lot,” said Engmann. “As word spread we learned of an additional lot, with the idea we could possibly build two homes there.”

Engmann talked about the impact of new homes in Sturgis. The three homes that will be built could add as much as $600,000 in taxable real estate value, while saving the families considerable money on mortgage payments. The house going up in Sturgis is approximately 30% complete, all dried in, walls up inside while electrical, plumbing and mechanicals are installed. The planned completion date is mid-summer. On the other lot, the infrastructure should start early this spring with the extension of a

public sewer line and water lines into the lot Habitat has constructed and remodeled over 210 affordable homes in the Black Hills area since the first home was dedicated in January 1992. The current Sturgis projects represent Habitat homes four, five, and six in the city of Sturgis.

Rapid City and Box Elder have been the primary areas where Habitat has been focused and building homes for the past 32 years. “The reason is those areas have had doors that have opened for us with land, applicants, volunteers

Belle Fourche Country Club is a 9 hole facility that is open to the public. Only 20 minutes from Deadwood on the edge of the Northern Hills, BFCC prides itself on quality turf conditions and quality customer service. Forget something? The golf shop is fully stocked with the best brands in the game such as Titleist, Taylormade and Srixon. Come out to Belle Fourche Country Club for an enjoyable round of golf. To make a tee time visit or call directly at 605-892-3472.


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The electric company demonstrates its commitment to its members and communities through its mission to continually improve customer services; to provide safe, reliable, and competitively priced electricity; and to continue to lead in developing communities for the benefit of its members.

Headquarters is located in Newell at 109 S. Dartmouth, with a Member Services Center in Spearfish at 1940 North Ave., Ste. 1. For more info., call 456-2494 or visit


Deadwood Recreation & Aquatics Center has everything you need for fitness and fun! Our facility features a zero entry pool, lap pool, indoor walking/running track, racquetball/squash court, cardiovascular equipment, weights, basketball court, sauna, and a new hot tub.

We offer affordable memberships starting at a one-month minimum, with special pricing for families, single adults, children, seniors, and high school students.

and fundraising capacity,” said Engmann. The organization has built two homes in Spearfish, three previous homes in Sturgis, one in Belle Fourche, three in Custer and one in Hot Springs along with dozens of home repairs and improvements throughout the region.

Engmann said finding affordable lots to build on is a challenge.

“What works really well is having a local realtor and local community members who are connector people - they

Deadwood Recreation Center is located at 105 Sherman Street. For more information, visit our page on the City of Deadwood site at www. or call 605-578-3729.


First Gold Gaming Resort – “It’s Where Deadwood Begins!”

We invite you to come in and play in one of our 9 casinos filled with all your favorite slot machines. Be sure and sign up for your Gold Club Card and start earning cash back. Stay in one of our deluxe hotel rooms or luxury suites at either Travelodge by Wyndham or First Gold Gaming Resort. Enjoy dining in our Horseshoe Restaurant, serving USDA Choice Prime Rib daily and breakfast all day. We offer free on-site covered parking, free Wi-Fi and free beer, wine or cocktails while playing.

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The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 21
Sabrina Whitford stands looking out the window of her son’s future bedroom that looks across the street at a city park, on Sunday in Sturgis. Pioneer photo by Tim Potts


The Sturgis Chamber actively supports business, agriculture, and tourism in the Sturgis area. Contact our office at (605) 347-2556 or visit 2040 Junction Avenue to learn about becoming a member and how we can help your business succeed. We also offer funding, involvement, and educational opportunities! Visit our website at to learn why Sturgis is one of the best communities in the Black Hills.


This is the 12th year in business for Zeeb’s Greenhouse. Zeeb’s Greenhouse is the perfect place to find all your planting needs. They carry a large selection of SD grown annuals, perennials and bedding plants to spruce up your landscape; vegetables and herbs for your garden and a variety of hanging baskets and planters. Zeeb’s is open seasonly 7 days a week 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. They are located at 3157 Venture Court in Spearfish.

Northern Hills Training Center provides services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In 1976, a group of families came together with the desire to create a community in Spearfish to provide residential and work opportunities for people who might otherwise be living in an institution.

Northern Hills Training Center started with 6 original residents in a 4 bedroom home and has now grown to 12 residential programs (including 6 NHTC owned homes), a workshop crew putting out 5000+ stakes a day for local contractors, 3 public businesses, and 300+ people living and working with Northern Hills Training Center, enhancing lives, achieving dreams and making a positive difference every day!

For more information or to join our team please visit


many times know who may be considering selling and if BHAHFH can get in on early conversations, many times people want to help”, said Engmann.

of construction related work on the job site of their home or another home,” said Engmann. The individuals get hands on experience in building an entire home. A mortgage is crafted at 30% or less of the future homeowner’s monthly income.

Spearfish Physical Therapy is an independent outpatient physical therapy clinic in the northern Black Hills. Founded in 2017, by Dr. Brandie Rainboth - DPT, OCS, Spearfish Physical Therapy is a welcoming space for patients of all diagnoses to recover and heal. Dr. Rainboth is an expert in orthopedic physical therapy, with a strong emphasis in manual, hands-on techniques. They specialize in the treatment of muscle and joint pain, and recovery from injury or surgery.

Dr. Brandie Rainboth has her Doctorate of Physical Therapy and is Board Certified in Orthopedic Physical Therapy. Visit or call 605-559-0381.

If someone is looking for opportunities with Habitat for Humanity for affordable housing, the first step is to go on the website, to learn about the program, and then, call (605) 348-9196 for next step information which includes attending an information meeting about the program. The complete process to home ownership normally takes between 12 to 18 months.

“This is not a giveaway, everyone has to buy their home, and complete the program requirements, including 250 hours of sweat equity per adult, which includes consumer credit counseling, Love, Inc. programs, a home maintenance course and 100 hours

Habitat normally likes to have a core group of 15 volunteers who can commit a couple days a week to build. If there aren’t consistent volunteers, then 50 to 60 volunteers over the course of a build, works very well.

“You do not need to be a carpenter or have any prior building experience, as we train everyone that comes to work and we provide the tools,” said Engmann.

Excavation and utility service, plumbing, electrical, and roofing are normally contracted out to sub-contractors who often provide some or all services donated, or reduced cost (in-kind) to keep the construction costs as low as possible.

A significant means of income for the organization is the Restore

stores in Rapid City and Spearfish. Community members support Habitat by donating excess building materials, furniture, appliances, and really anything for the home. People can simply call (605) 791-1880 for a donation pick up, or drop off items at either facility at 610 E. Omaha in Rapid or 2915 E. Colorado in Spearfish from 9am-5pm Monday-Saturday. If a church, service club or business would like to arrange a “donation drive” at their facility, Habitat ReStore can arrange to have boxtrucks available during specific days/hours. One person’s trash becomes another person’s treasure, generating wonderful financial support to the housing ministry.

If an individual wants to volunteer to help build, or volunteer at ReStore the easiest way is to call (605) 348-9196 or email

For additional information about Black Hills Habitat for Humanity please call the office at (605) 3489196.

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 22, Our Towns 2023
The home located in Sturgis that will be the new home of Sabrina Whitford, when construction is completed this spring. Pioneer photo by Tim Potts from Pg 21
The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 23 611 N Main St, Spearfish, SD 57783 (605) 641-5766 TO THE MAX! TO THE MAX! TOTALLYTUBULAR TOTALLYTUBULAR • Custom Made T’s, Mugs & More • Local Consignment Artwork • Fun, Unique, Crazy Gifts PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS WITH CUSTOMIZED APPAREL!
The Black Hills Pioneer Page 24, Our Towns 2023