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Owen Ponto and Viola Davis

Academy, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Viola Davis congratulates South Dakota's top youth volunteers, Abby Neff, at left, and Owen Ponto, of Rapid City, in May during an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

A Rapid City student was one of the top youth volunteers recognized for volunteerism last month during a star-studded ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Owen Ponto, 13, of Rapid City, and Abby Neff, 17, of Sioux Falls, were named South Dakota's top two youth volunteers of 2019 and were honored during the 24th annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards on May 5, according to a news release from Prudential.

Ponto, Neff and 100 other youth volunteers from across the country each received a $1,000 award and personal congratulations from award-winning actress Viola Davis at the ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program named Ponto and Neff South Dakota's top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.

Ponto is a seventh-grader at Saint Thomas More High School. He initiated an annual hill-climbing event, "Climb for a Cure," that has raised $17,000 so far to help find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

Neff, a junior at Lutheran High School of Sioux Falls, has provided more than 25,000 recycled crayons and other art and educational materials to an estimated 10,000 children in 46 states and overseas, according to the release. 

“We’re impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference,” said Charles Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc., in the release. “It’s a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future.”

Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall. More than 29,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.

The program was created in 1995 "to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service and in so doing inspire others to volunteer, too," according to the release.

BankWest collection drive for WAVI

BankWest Insurance and Trust in Rapid City is collecting items for Working Against Violence Inc.

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Become a Member

A news release from BankWest suggests donating household items like 13- and 33-gallon trash bags; quart and gallon resealable bags; hair conditioner; cereal; pasta; Ramen noodles; soup; sugar; canned fruit; canned vegetables; and new or gently used strollers or umbrella strollers.

BankWest Insurance and Trust will collect items for WAVI through June 21. Items may be dropped off from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at BankWest, 333 Tuscany Square, Suite 5, in Rapid City.

Nurse wins award

Falcone

Falcone

John Falcone, a registered nurse in the progressive care unit at Regional Health Rapid City Hospital, has received the hospital’s DAISY Award for April, according to a news release from the hospital.

The DAISY Award is part of a national program that awards nurses "who go above and beyond for their patients and community." Falcone received two nominations, according to the release.

Patients wrote that Falcone was patient, friendly, upbeat and explained things clearly. 

“I will remember him for the rest of my life,” one wrote. 

Safeway presents grants

Safeway stores recently presented $20,000 to the Black Hills Habitat for Humanity for veterans homes, and a $10,000 grant to Feeding South Dakota for their children's breakfast programs.

A news release from the company says they presented the grants during a May 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Mountain View Road location in Rapid City.

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