Volunteers from four South Dakota communities will be recognized with Farmers Union Rural Dakota Pride award September 3, during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair on the Freedom Stage. The ceremony begins at 12:45PM.
Rural Volunteers Recognized During State Fair
By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union
Volunteers from four South Dakota communities will be recognized with Farmers Union Rural Dakota Pride award September 3, during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair on the Freedom Stage. The ceremony begins at 12:45.
“This is our way to thank the many rural citizens who work behind the scenes to take care of citizens in need and keep community traditions alive,” said Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union.
2022 Rural Dakota Pride Recipients are Dan & Corinne Overweg, Kimball; Dale Swenson, Woonsocket; Judy Roemich, Piedmont and Mary Jacobs, Huron.
Read on to learn more.
By Lura Roti
In 1976,Dale Swenson received notice about the upcoming Woonsocket Annual Alumni Banquet. But for some reason he didn’t attend. “I heard after the banquet, that during the annual meeting I was elected to serve as president for 1977, my 10th year out of school. The president is responsible for organizing a banquet to feed about 300.That’s when I learned, I should probably show up for meetings,” Dale said. For nearly 40 years, Dale has done much more than attend meetings. He has worked with other community volunteers to ensure time-honored traditions, like the community Water Festival, Christmas Nativity scene on Woonsocket’s Lake Prior Island, and needed services, like Meals on Wheels, continue to thrive. It occurred to Dale that, “Someone needs to do these things, and I think, why not me,” he said. He explains that his commitment to community stems from family roots. His family has been active members of the Woonsocket community since the 1880s.In 1984, Dale saw a meeting announcement in the local paper. It asked for volunteers to help plan the annual Water Festival. Previously, the planning committee had dissolved, and local citizens worried that the more than a century old community tradition would end.“As a kid, the Water Festival brought people from all over the county–it was something our community needed,” Dale says of the Fourth of July Water Festival celebrating Woonsocket’s beautiful Lake Prior with fireworks, a parade and outdoor games for allages. Part of a hardworking team of volunteers, Dale saw a need to bring backwater-related activities. “It was the Water Festival, but there wasn’t much going on around the lake anymore, so I suggested canoe races.” Canoe races inspired water tank races, water golf and other fun lake activities. Decades later, thanks to efforts of volunteers like Dale, the event continues to thrive.
Dale Swenson, Woonsocket
By Lura Roti
When Mary Jacobs saw 7-year-old Alex’s face light up after hearing his wish was granted - he was going on a Disney cruise - she knew she’d be a Make-A-Wish South Dakota volunteer for life.
“When a Wish kid smiles at you, because their wish is granted, you’re tied to them forever,” explained Jacobs, who has served as a Make-A-Wish volunteer since 2000.
Make-A-Wish is a non-profit that works to grant wishes to children with critical illnesses. Jacobs’ volunteer title is “Wish Granter.” In this role, she travels to rural communities throughout South Dakota and interviews youth who have been referred for a wish.
She makes sure the wish is 100 percent the child’s idea and then makes a recommendation to the Make-A-Wish staff.
Working with other volunteers and the Make-A-Wish South Dakota team, Jacobs has helped grant more than 50 wishes over the last 22 years. Jacobs says through the process she has developed lasting friendships with other Wish volunteers as well as Wish recipients and their families.
And as a Wish Granter, she gets to see quite a few smiles.
“A wish gives a kid the chance to be a kid again,” she said. “They can forget about the doctors, forget about the lab coats and do something they want to do more than anything.”
Mary Jacobs, Huron
By Lura Roti
Christmas holds a special place in Judy Roemich’s heart. The Piedmont resident goes out of her way to make sure all families in Piedmont receive gifts on this special day. Since the early 90s, she has organized Giving Trees throughout the community, collecting about 700 donated gifts for about 70 Piedmont and Black Hawk families each year.
“Let’s face it, even as adults, we all like presents,” Roemich said. “I just can’t bare thinking that any kids will not receive Christmas gifts.”
The Giving Trees project was started by a member of her sewing club, and when this member was in her 90s, Roemich offered to help her out. The member said she didn’t want help, she wanted Roemich to take the holiday giving tradition over.
So, for nearly 40 years, Roemich collects names and addresses of families who need gifts from the area food pantry which she helped organize more than 30 years ago. In addition to donated gifts from Giving Trees, Roemich and the other members of the Happy Ten Sewing Circle also give handmade gifts.
Once the gifts are made and collected, Roemich and the sewing club members set up shop in Our Lady of the Black Hills Catholic Church, spending about a week wrapping gifts. Then, local firefighters load up their fire trucks and deliver gifts to families.
“It just warms my heart when we deliver gifts to families and I see their childrens’ eyes light up,” Roemich said.
Judy Roemich, Piedmont
By Lura Roti
When Dan and Corinne Overweg were expecting their youngest, Corinne was put on five weeks of bedrest. The couple had two young children and a family business to run. They felt overwhelmed.
Their community of Kimball was there for them.
“Community members began coming over and putting food in our freezer and fridge. A couple ladies even cleaned my house,” Corinne recalled. “In this community, we help each other out.”
Twenty-five years later, their youngest son, Hayden, and their oldest son, Gavin, are working with their parents in their full-service automotive, truck repair and motorsports business, Overweg Repair. Overweg Repair is among the largest employers in Kimball. Dan and Corinne continue the tradition of helping out.
Whether it’s serving as Christian education leaders for St. Margaret’s Catholic Church or serving as a volunteer firefighter or helping raise funds for a community scholarship fund, Main Street Park, new swimming pool or on the committee to build a new medical facility, the Kimball community knows they can count on the Overwegs.
“It’s just who we are,” explained Dan, who grew up in Kimball. “And it’s about family.”
All of Dan’s immediate and extended family live within 30 miles of Kimball. Today, he and Corinne’s grown children and grandchildren also live there. Even though she didn’t grow up in Kimball, when Dan and Corinne married, she knew Kimball was home.
“I think this small town has been the best place to raise our kids,” Corinne said. “Seeing this community grow and thrive and be the place where young families want to live – this is why we give back.”
Dan and Corinne Overweg, Kimball