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Edna Smith, Sturgis, SD is among the recipients of this year's Catalyst Good Neighbor Club award.
Courtesy Photo
Edna Smith, Sturgis, SD is among the recipients of this year's Catalyst Good Neighbor Club award.

People recognized for being good neighbors


F.Ganje - April 18, 2019

OWANKA, SD – For almost four decades, there has been a group of people whose sole mission is to find out the good things that people do – and recognize them for it.  This year’s honorees of the Catalyst Good Neighbor Club – that has no designated office or address – were recently honored during the groups banquet that is put on just for them, says Connie Simon, Owanka, SD, vice president and sometimes acting president.

“We have a lovely banquet  when we do this,” says Simon.  “The nominations are read and the honorees come forward.  Entertainment includes “The Twilighter’s,” who were playing at the very first banquet all those years ago.” She adds, “The group was organized by Dorothy Shearer of Wall. When she passed away recently, her daughter DeAnna Kammerer stepped in with the group.  There is just a lot of connections and history that is shared.”

This year’s honorees are Helen Richter, New Underwood; Edna Smith, Sturgis; Ken Skillingstad, Wasta: and Alice Richter, New Underwood.  They join the list of over 155 people who have been recognized by the Catalyst Club over the past 39 years.

“These are folks who do good deeds helping other people,” says Simon.  “Some are localized with their immediate neighbors or others belong to volunteer organizations. Some have done world-wide good works like missionary services.” She adds “It’s really about people helping people in lots of different ways.”

The group’s beginnings came about from a conversation two people were having one day; Elnoris Kjerstad, Rapid City and formerly from Quinn (now deceased), and Lyndell Petersen of Rapid City.

“Those two were talking one day about helpful neighbors and both decided there should be a way to honor these people,” shares Simon.  “So they came up with the idea of nominating and honoring folks with a banquet that recognizes them for their good deeds.”

In the beginning and over the next 30 years, the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce supported the Catalyst Club with meeting space and support services.  But there came the time when the Chamber decided to not be involved and that’s when the group was somewhat in limbo, says Simon. But only for a very short time.

“A few of the long-time, hard-working members were ready to disband as well during that time,” recalls Simon. “But within a few months, newer members decided we would keep it going.  So we centered our organization in the Wicksville, SD area located in Pennington County.  There is a little church out here and we have our meetings.”  Typically, there are four nominees selected for the annual recognition. The banquet location moves around and has been held in Wall, SD the past two years.

The Catalyst Club is open to anyone, says Simon.  Membership dues pay for the annual banquet. Only members can nominate someone for the good neighbor recognition and vote.  Members and nominations are welcome from the entire region.

“I think it’s a fact that we haven’t exhausted the supply of good neighbors yet,” observes Simon. “And I don’t think we ever will.”

See more on this year’s honorees below.
Alice Richter, New Underwood, SD, is active in her church, Peace Lutheran in Rapid City, teaching Sunday school and volunteers as a member of the Main Street Living Choir for a series of worship services. She is a longtime member of the New Underwood American Legion Auxiliary, serving as secretary-treasurer for 19 years and has volunteered for many other community events. Alice was nominated by Peg Ireland.

Ken Skillingstad, Wasta, SD has volunteered for the Wasta Community Hall, helping to replace a roof on the structure.  He was also instrumental in the cleanup efforts following Winter Storm Atlas in 2013.  He is known for his community involvement in such events as Relay for Life and the community’s Centennial Celebration and with such organizations as the volunteer fire department. Ken was noinated by Lloyd and Margee Willey.

Edna Smith, Sturgis, SD was a teacher for 33 years. That included six years in rural South Dakota schools and 22 years at Faith Christian School in Minnesota.  She also substitute taught in five rural schools in Meade County.  She is a long-time Sunday school teacher and also serves as an organist and pianist as well as playing the accordion.  She shares her talents during visits to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Edna was nomnated by Harold Delbridge.

Helen Richter, New Underwood, SD, known for her love of family and community, is also known for dedication to education.  She and her husband Bill have been active in the school and school-related activities for more than 50 years.  She served several years on the New Underwood School District School Board, has volunteered with the school alumni association, has served as a 4-H leader for the New Underwood Rangers and has served as a director of the Western Junior Home Economics Show.  As a mail carrier, she received the Hero Award from the U.S. Postal Service for helping a patron who had fallen.  Helen was nominated by Janet Fernau.



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