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Your community needs you

Your community needs you

Janelle Atyeo mug

Janelle Atyeo, Regional Editor

One great thing about growing up in small-town South Dakota is the opportunity to be involved. For instance, I was a terrible gymnast – not quite built for the sport and too timid to throw myself headfirst at the vault. I certainly wouldn’t fit in with the state champion Deuel Cardinal team today. They’ve come a long way. But I had the chance to participate without worrying if I’d be good enough to make the varsity team.

Small towns need input from everybody to make them function. That’s true when it comes to fielding a football team and when it comes to providing essential services like public schooling and electricity.

Last week, I talked with a longtime board member from a rural electric cooperative in Britton, South Dakota. He found it fulfilling to learn the workings of a rural utility and help on the business side of things at both a local and regional level.

After nearly 40 years on the board, he’s become quite the expert. There’s help for the next generation learning the ropes of those board positions. You can read about the new Rural POWER program from the Billie Sutton Leadership Institute in our latest issue. The year-long program is meant to help people find their leadership style and give an introduction to all that board work involves.

In small communities, it’s often the same people that get called upon again and again to volunteer their time. Many local leaders, like the Britton board member, end up serving for decades. Their service is valuable, but rural South Dakota can also benefit from fresh faces and new ideas.

If you haven’t had the chance to get involved, there’s opportunity for you to make a difference in your community. Your skills are needed. Maybe it’s at your local cooperative, hospital, church or 4-H group.

If you’re not feeling prepared to step into a leadership role, consider a program like Rural POWER. I can almost guarantee no one will expect you to run full speed and launch yourself over a gymnastics vault.

Janelle is editor of the Tri-State Neighbor, covering South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa and northeastern Nebraska. Reach her at or follow on Twitter @JLNeighbor

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