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Black Hills Works launching $10M fundraising campaign
Funds will be used to improve housing, enhance programs

Thanks to Black Hills Works, hundreds of local people with disabilities have housing, jobs, transportation and opportunities they might otherwise lack. Black Hills Works is launching its most ambitious fundraising campaign, “With Purpose: The Campaign for Black Hills Works,” to raise $10 million to continue and expand its life-changing services.

The campaign will offset dwindling state and federal resources. Currently, Black Hills Works faces a gap of more than $1.5 million annually between the average cost to support people with disabilities and the funding received from federal and state sources.

Black Hills Works first announced the “With Purpose” campaign at its November gala and is already more than halfway toward its $10 million goal. The funds will be used to build new residential facilities, improve housing, enhance programs and services, and support the nonprofit organization’s endowment fund, according to Dorothy Rosby, community relations director for the Black Hills Works Foundation.

The nonprofit organization supports about 630 adults with disabilities and employs more than 500 people. It serves people 16 and older who have learning and developmental disabilities, visual and hearing impairments, brain injury, chronic mental illness and physical impairments. It also operates BakeWorks and the Suzie Cappa Arts Center and Gallery in downtown Rapid City, and introduced a new GrowWorks hydroponic garden and EchoWorks recycling.

“The work we do helps contribute to economic vibrancy by helping people with disabilities be part of the workforce. They’re a valuable component of our community’s workforce,” said Brad Saathoff, CEO of Black Hills Works. “There’s so many things that aren’t adequately funded, and things that aren’t even funded that are really, really essential.”

Handicapped-accessible, affordable housing is one of the most critical needs, Saathoff said. Some Black Hills Works clients don’t live with their families but lack basic life skills; they cannot live in an apartment without support. Others don’t have families and rely on Black Hills Works staff and volunteers, he said.

“There’s a huge shortage of affordable housing in our community. The folks we support, every one meets the qualifications for affordable housing, but there isn’t enough supply,” Saathoff said.

Black Hills Works provides 31 different housing resources, including group homes, apartment buildings and community homes. Because of federal and state funding cuts and reduced availability of grants, “the money to keep those up is virtually gone,” Saathoff said. “Some resources don’t even exist any more. … We’re (launching this campaign) to be able to fill in gaps where government funding used to be and simply isn’t there any more.”

Transportation, especially to their jobs, is another significant need for Black Hills Works clients. “We’ve got wonderful partnerships with employers, but we have to get (clients) there,” Saathoff said.

Without adequate housing and support services, “the alternative is people living in institutions, which is more costly and undeniably not as joyful a life,” Saathoff said. “The evidence is overwhelming. Living in community-based (housing) is exponential to a great level of joy. People are contributing to the community. They’re interacting, they’re adding all the value they have as human beings to our community.”

Saathoff emphasized that Black Hills Works’ efforts also aid clients’ families. “We serve adults with disabilities but as part of that, we’re serving so many family members as well,” he said. “Even the best of families need partners to help with the workload so (people with disabilities) are able to be contributing to the community.”

Janice Knutsen’s family is one of many who rely on Black Hills Works. By partnering with the nonprofit organization, Knutsen’s son Kai, 32, who suffers from a rare seizure disorder, is able to have caregivers’ assistance so he can live in an apartment and work, she said. Kai is employed at Safeway, volunteers in the bookstore at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and works for the Mines’ basketball and football teams.

“Black Hills Works really thinks out of the box when it comes to caring for people,” Knutsen said. “There’s no other place in Black Hills or even close that could do this program.”

Kai’s level of independence is greater than his family ever thought possible, Knutsen said. “He rides the bus all over town. It’s his favorite thing. He has a sense of community. He gets around town. He knows people. He’s really happy because with this program because we’ve been able to give him what he needs.”

For more information about Black Hills Works services and the “With Purpose” campaign, visit blackhillsworks.org.


Local
top story
GF&P plans stiffer response to aquatic invasive species
Official says bigheaded carp and zebra mussels are the priorities

PIERRE | South Dakota is planning a more aggressive fight against aquatic invasive species next year. 

Game, Fish and Parks biologist Mike Greiner told members of the state GF&P Commission on Friday that bigheaded carp and zebra mussels are the priorities. 

One member, Mary Anne Boyd of Yankton, praised the presentation but said he should go farther.

“I think we need to be aggressive as we can,” Boyd said.

She wondered whether boat and bait inspections should be “more than voluntary.”

Boyd asked Greiner to keep her informed.

“I’d like to stay on top of this issue,” she said.

Commissioner Doug Sharp of Watertown asked what it would take to move from voluntary to mandatory inspections.

State fisheries director John Lott replied the option wasn’t available. “At the present time that isn’t part of the tools we have,” Lott said.

Commissioner Gary Jensen of Rapid City asked if there could be consideration of legislation. “It seems like one of the challenges has been … engaging and mobilizing other agencies of state government,” he said.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” Lott responded.

Lott said Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler has engaged with other cabinet members so their departments become involved.

A briefing for legislators is planned and the AIS task force is being revised, Lott added.

Jensen said searches about aquatic invasive species hurting native species haven’t produced conclusive results but there’s “no question” that AIS affects water systems.

“There should be plenty of motivation in many parts of government to really engage,” Jensen said.

Sharp said he supported Jensen’s thought that the commission needs to have further discussions with Hepler and Wildlife Division director Tony Leif.

“I think it’s plain to see the commission expects an aggressive stance on AIS,” commission chairman Barry Jensen of White River told Greiner. “You certainly have the commission’s support to get after it.”

Greiner’s plan covered many points, including training for businesses that want to offer GFP-approved boat decontaminations.

The department issued 246 citations and warnings issued this year, he said. Among the proposals for 2018 are:

  • Updating the local boat registry at the marina on Lewis and Clark reservoir at Yankton so it’s easier for people to apply;
  • Assigning 10 interns to boat inspections and decontamination in two-person teams on weekends;
  • Collecting data electronically using mobile devices, issuing pre-emptive warnings and building a multi-state database;
  • Offering broader "AIS 101" training to GF&P personnel;
  • Using a marketing tool known as geo-fencing through mobile devices;
  • Spreading the message on tailgates, signs and banners and at special events such as the Yankton water festival and the B.A.S.S. fishing tournament at Pierre;
  • Emphasizing compliance to recreational boaters;
  • Installing sample panels at many lake sites and processing at Blue Dog state hatchery and Sioux Falls;
  • Starting a filtration project;
  • Reaching an agreement with the state Office of School and Public Lands and hiring an aquatic vegetation harvester;
  • Providing direction to lake associations;
  • Submitting research proposals such as bigheaded carp barriers to the University of South Dakota;
  • Incorporating AIS into annual fishery work-plans; and
  • Establishing protocols for gear handling by officials, university personnel, commercial fisherman and scientific collectors.

“So we aren’t vectors of transfer,” Greiner said.

Lott said members of the fisheries staff have discussed what did and didn’t occur this year and offered suggestions for improvements in 2018.


Local
Downtown coin shop among first in Hills to accept bitcoin

Nathan Harding already has international connections for his new coin, bullion and precious metals shop in downtown Rapid City.

So it only makes sense for Harding and Don Smith, co-owners of Rushmore Coin and Heroes & Villians Collectibles on Sixth Street, to be, they say, among the first in the Black Hills to accept bitcoin, an international cryptocurrency, as an acceptable method of payment for purchases.

A bitcoin is a digital token that can be sent electronically from one user to another, anywhere in the world.

Bitcoin was created in 2009 in hopes it would become a new kind of currency that people could use outside of the traditional banking system, without backing from any country or central bank.

“We’re not planning to hold a bunch of bitcoin or anything like that. We just want to offer another form of payment for people. All they can do is, if they own bitcoin, they can use it to purchase something from us rather than by cash, check or credit,” Harding said.

Unlike traditional payment networks like Visa, the bitcoin network is not run by a single company or person.

The system is run by a decentralized network of computers around the world that keep track of all bitcoin transactions, similar to the way Wikipedia is maintained by a decentralized network of writers and editors.

Harding said bitcoin or portions of bitcoin can be purchased, or it can be “mined” by programming a computer to solve a complex math problem.

Bitcoin miners have unlocked roughly half of the 21 million total bitcoin in existence, a number set by the founders of bitcoin.

Bitcoins have surged in value in the past few years. As of Friday, one bitcoin was worth $17,650 in U.S. dollars.

Harding tracks bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, such as Etherium and Litecoin through the website Coinbase.com.

The website also tracks locations where cryptocurrencies are accepted. So far, there are no businesses in the Black Hills listed, Harding said.

“There’s no one actively advertising that they accept bitcoin as far as we know,” he said.

The concept of a virtual currency, not backed by a central bank or government, raises questions of its safety from hacking or what happens to the value when all 21 million bitcoin are mined or purchased.

And since Bitcoin operates outside of government oversight, with transactions completed anonymously, concerns have been raised that it will be a haven for criminals.

Harding believes trading by virtual currency is in its infancy, and understands the confusion and controversy surrounding bitcoin.

“It’s backed by the people that are supporting it,” Harding said. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”