New community center on Crow Creek reservation designed to give hope to youthFORT THOMPSON — Resiliency, revitalization and reconciliation. These are the three values South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Relations J.R. LaPlante said will be instilled to the youth of Crow Creek Indian Reservation with the opening of the Mel and Elnita Rank Center.
By: Chris Huber, The Daily Republic
FORT THOMPSON — Resiliency, revitalization and reconciliation.
These are the three values South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Relations J.R. LaPlante said will be instilled to the youth of Crow Creek Indian Reservation with the opening of the Mel and Elnita Rank Center.
“The children will walk into this new building, see how nice it is and that will give them hope,” LaPlante said. “Hope can be a powerful tool for any community.”
The 7,000 square-foot community center held its grand opening Saturday as a crowd of nearly 100 people packed into the building.
Housing the Boys and Girls Club Three Districts and Hunkpati Investments, a financial organization to help tribal members with their finances and promote the community’s businesses, the new community center was the brainchild of The Harvest Initiative co-founders Jason Yates and Dustin Miller.
“It was a dream we had way back in early 2009,” said Yates, the president of The Harvest Initiative.
Through funding from Barry Griswell, the former CEO of the Principal Financial Group, the two formed The Harvest Initiative to help move Crow Creek toward commercially viable economic environment.
“We really thought we needed a building if we wanted to do that,” Yates said. “We started looking into it and found a HUD grant for neighborhood stabilization.”
The federal grant gave the group $500,000 to tear down a vacated structure and built a new one.
Because the site they chose was a former service station, they also received money from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to clean up old gasoline tanks at the site.
The land where the community center is located was donated by Mel and Elnita Rank.
“Without them it’s hard to say if would have found a spot,” Miller said noting the project may not have happened without the help of the Rank Family.
Located at the main intersection of Fort Thompson, the new Boys and Girls Club features a foosball table, billiards table, video game room, computer room and a full kitchen.
“The fact that is right here in the middle of town is great for the community, it’s a great reminder of the things that can be accomplished here in Fort Thompson,” Yates said.
Boys and Girls Club Three Districts Executive Director Rhonda Hawk called the opening of the new center “a dream come true.”
“I can’t believe it’s finally here, I am just so happy and am amazing at how nice it is,” Hawk said, “The kids are just going to love it.”
Hawk said she is already looking into funding options on attaching a gymnasium to the new site.
“We can to do economic development but it also turns out to be community development as well,” Yates said about the new building.
Quoting Griswell, Yates and Miller said this building is “not a handout but a help up,” for Fort Thompson.