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Two historic buildings receive Deadwood Fund grants for restoration

LEAD-DEADWOOD | Two historic Lawrence County properties — one a remote log cabin dating back to the Black Hills gold-rush days, and the other an ornate opera house that continues to serve Lead as a community arts center — have received South Dakota State Historical Society grants to aid in their restoration.

Historical Society Director Jay D. Vogt of Pierre recently announced the grants, funded by Deadwood gaming proceeds, include $15,000 awarded to the Pearson Cabin near Deadwood, and $12,500 for the Homestake Opera House theater in Lead.

The opera house, located at 313 W. Main St., will use the grant to assist with the completion of final design documents for the continuing restoration of the theater.

“It’s kind of an unusual thing we fund,” said Kate Nelson, restoration specialist with the State Historic Preservation Office.

“And that’s so we know what they’re planning to do in the future will meet all of the standards that we have for historic buildings. They’ve been slowly going through one area at a time. The next area they want to finish is the theater, and that’s a big area to tackle,” she said.

The Homestake Mining Company built the opera house in 1914. Along with a 1,000-seat theater, the opera house also housed a heated swimming pool, billiard hall, library, bowling alley, smoking room, and social hall.

A 1984 fire severely damaged the building. After sitting empty for 11 years, former Homestake Mine engineer Jerry Aberle purchased it and began making structural improvements and planning for restoration.

A nonprofit was organized in 1998 to continue raising money for restoration. In 2008, the first community-theater production in 25 years was held in the partially-restored theater. Restoration continues as the opera house hosts plays, concerts and other events.

The theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 as part of the Lead Historic District.

The Pearson Cabin, located about 1.5 miles east of Deadwood on private land owned for many years by the Pearson family, is believed to have been built from rough-hewn logs by a single individual around 1876.

The cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 for its role in the exploration and settlement of the Black Hills in the 1870s.

Nelson said the land owner is working with a private contractor on the cabin’s restoration.

Also receiving grants were two other projects: Sioux Falls, the Grand Lodge and Library of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, built in 1924, received $12,500 for comprehensive façade masonry repairs.

The Olive Place in Watertown, built in 1887, received $10,000 for roof restoration to replace asphalt shingles with wood shingles.

“This historic preservation grants program is designed to encourage restoration or rehabilitation of historic properties and is one more way we can promote and protect our history and culture,” said Vogt, in a release.

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Local eco-friendly personal products store practices zero-waste

Callee Ackland hopes her personal search for clearer, healthier skin ultimately leads to a cleaner, healthier planet for all.

What started as her quest for an effective skin treatment has grown into a Rapid City-based business, offering environmentally-friendly products for people and their homes.

Her Bestowed Essentials line of personal and home-care products is sold mostly online, but is also available to the local public at a small storefront in east Rapid City.

Ackland, 25, was born in Northern California and raised in Oregon. She had battled acne for several years, had tried everything on the drug-store shelves and had been to a dermatologist, she said.

Then in the fall of 2016, she bought a simple handmade bar of soap while on vacation in New Orleans.

It worked.

“That bar of soap is the first thing that helped calm my skin quite a bit,” she said.

Through research, Ackland said she discovered women put an average of 168 different chemicals, from skin-care products to makeup, on their skin each day.

“And a lot of them actually are not good for your skin. They can cause skin irritation and lung irritation,” she said. “I decided I was going to make a lot of my own products.”

In 2017, she started producing her own line of handmade soaps.

She first made gifts of them to friends, who encouraged her to open a business.

At the time, Ackland was active-duty military, stationed in Georgia and serving as a translator with the U.S. Navy. She began Bestowed Essentials as a side endeavor, selling her first products through local farmer’s markets or through online sites, such as

When she left the military, she traveled the country in a camper van, hoping to settle somewhere and open a full-time production studio for her growing business.

She had never been to South Dakota, but was attracted to the state because of tax advantages offered to small businesses and entrepreneurs, she said.

The proximity to the Black Hills ultimately swayed her decision to pick Rapid City.

“I just absolutely fell in love with the area as soon as I got here,” Ackland said.

Ackland, whose given name is Christianna, said her father came up with the business name.

To bestow, she said, is to present someone with a great honor. The earth, she said, provides the plant-based materials she uses in her products.

“It was like Mother Earth’s bestowments to us,” she said.

As a “zero-waste” business, Bestowed Essentials also uses completely or mostly recycled products — and no plastics — for production and shipping.

The business’s central location in South Dakota cuts down on the distance to receive incoming shipments she uses to make her products and to ship them to buyers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and internationally.

Her small storefront at 1764 Centre St., Suite 3, is open from noon to 6 p.m. each day. Her line of products can be found at

Her plans include moving closer to downtown Rapid City, perhaps as early as next year. Long range, Ackland hopes to expand well beyond South Dakota.

“The 10-year plan is having multiple stores around the country,” she said.

Increasing reports of climate change and plastic pollution has boosted environmental awareness, she said

“People are becoming more conscious of it and looking for eco-friendly alternatives all over the country,” she said.

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South Dakota parents look for autism treatment coverage

Krystal Trull jumped into action when she heard her insurance plan was dropping her daughter's intensive autism treatments.

The treatments gave 4-year-old Nikole the gift of speech for the first time, and for the first time Trull received the simple yet precious gift of being able to talk with her daughter.

But the treatments are gone.

This month, some insurance plans through Sanford Health and Avera Health lost coverage of effective, evidence-based autism treatments. And the families who lost therapy for their loved ones asked state lawmakers to intervene.

"For these kids right now that were abruptly taken out of therapy, there's nothing for them," Trull told the Argus Leader.

Sanford and Avera officials point to an exemption in a South Dakota law which allows them to halt coverage of the treatment, called Applied Behavior Analysis, for holders of their individual and small-group plans.

Trull and other parents wasted little time in enlisting the help of legislators.

Applied Behavior Analysis can effectively improve the language skills and behavior of children with autism. It's intensive, requiring up to 40 hours a week with health-care providers. And it's expensive.

The families affected by the change are those on individual or small-group plans, as both health-care systems take advantage of a loophole in state law.

South Dakota officials passed a 2014 law that requires insurance to cover Applied Behavior Analysis and the daily, reinforcement-based behavior treatments for children with autism. However, language in the statute included a pass for small-group and individual plans to avoid Obamacare-era requirements for state financing — the requirement in question no longer exists.

In fact, if Trull and other families lived in North Dakota, they wouldn't have lost coverage. North Dakota officials approved a rule in July that requires all insurance plans to cover Applied Behavior Analysis for children with autism.

So why are Sanford and Avera using the state's loophole, instead of simply continuing the higher level of coverage they still offer North Dakota families?

"At this point, it's a price-sensitivity issue in the South Dakota health-insurance market," said Kirk Zimmer, president of Sanford Health Plan. "Keeping a competitive product."

Avera responded to an interview request with an emailed statement, which said their change will only affect holders of individual plans, not small-group plans.

"We hope the discontinuation of coverage stimulates the conversation among insurance providers and regulators on how to best meet the need that exists," the statement said.

Two bills introduced by both Democrats and Republicans will seek to remove the state's loophole for smaller group plans. Each does the exact same thing: Cut the exemption.

Republican Rep. Sue Peterson of Sioux Falls and Democratic Rep. Ryan Cwach of Yankton introduced separate bills in the House, with Republican Sen. Brock Greenfield of Clark signing on as a co-sponsor of Peterson's bill.

"My hope and my belief is that this is a result of Republicans and Democrats wanting to work together to find solutions for families of autistic children," Cwach said.

Avera notified families months ahead of the change, but families on Sanford's individual and small-group plans had their coverage yanked with little or no notice.

Avera's statement said the provider led the industry in 2014 when it decided to cover Applied Behavior Analysis on individual plans.

"We had hoped other insurers would follow suit to offer coverage, but none did, creating a financial burden shared with our other insurance members," the statement said.

Sanford's coverage of the autism treatments in individual plans was a mistake, Zimmer said.

"We had mistakenly paid some claims on a small amount of individuals," Zimmer said.

Lindsey Janklow got a letter from Sanford just a week before coverage quit on her 2-year-old son's treatment.

R.J. lost his speech when he was about 15 months old. And then he started banging his head. Friday was his last day of coverage, and Janklow is working with a sense of urgency to do what she can to help.

She's the one who went out and found support from Peterson, Greenfield and Cwach.

The Sioux Falls mother is worried about her young son losing access to Applied Behavior Analysis during a critical point in his development, when his young mind can be healed with effective treatment.

"I've probably been in a shocked denial," Janklow said. "It's at the age where it really makes the biggest effect."

Girl still missing after weekend search

A weekend search party with more than 50 people, a helicopter and seven dogs was not able to find missing 9-year-old girl Serenity Dennard.

Officials plan to regroup on Monday and hope for a break in a weather in order to melt some of the deep snow and make search conditions more bearable with warming temperatures. 

Dennard ran away from the Black Hills Children's Home near Rockerville around 10:45 a.m. on Feb. 3. Staff at the Children's Home searched for her before calling 911 at 12:26 p.m.

More than 200 people and 14 specialty dogs have participated in the now week-long search for Dennard.

On Sunday, 56 people and six dogs searched throughout the day. 

The Pennington County Water Rescue Team was called in on Sunday after some dogs showed interest in a small creek. Crews broke through the ice to search the water underneath but did not find Dennard. 

This weekend search crews were aided by seven new dogs from four states that specialize in finding both live and dead scents in the search for Dennard, according Willie Whelchel, chief deputy at the Pennington County Sheriff's Office. Two each came from South Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa, and one came from Colorado. Those dog teams are now headed home.

One dog could not work on Sunday after its paws were injured the day before. 

A helicopter was flying to help with the search over the weekend weekend, but it was grounded by fog early Sunday morning. It was able to take off Sunday afternoon. 

The community of Rockerville has banded together to support searchers with The Gaslight and Marco's Pizza  providing meals throughout the weekend. 

PHOTOS: The search for Serenity Dennard