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Abbott House expands to Rapid City, looks to other area communities

After 12 years with the Abbott House, Eric Klooz couldn't be happier with the progress made in the last year. Klooz serves as executive director of the Abbott House -- a place that offers services such as therapy, education and living options for...

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After 12 years with the Abbott House, Eric Klooz couldn't be happier with the progress made in the last year.

Klooz serves as executive director of the Abbott House - a place that offers services such as therapy, education and living options for girls between the ages of 7 and 17. The Abbott House was established in 1939 and is an all-girl facility that provides a second chance for girls who have suffered abuse and neglect.

And last November, the organization expanded the Bridges Therapeutic Foster Home Program to Rapid City, where they opened an all-boys foster home. And then again in February, Abbott House opened an all-girls foster home in Rapid City. Each can house six.

These foster homes are the "crown jewel," according to Tona Rozum, a District 20 state representative as well as a member of the Abbott House Foundation Board.

Rozum grew up around the Abbott House in Mitchell, living near the foster homes. And to see the success of the Abbott House in recent years is "pretty phenomenal," she said.

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"When you watch how these girls come in so broken and nobody to trust, it breaks your heart," Rozum said. "It's a good thing to know that on this end of we really can help them become themselves again and recognize their own abilities."

Originally, the Abbott House was looking to expand to Sioux Falls, but Klooz said they were told there was a high need for homes for kids in Rapid City.

So far, it's been a success. Klooz said approximately 35 to 40 percent of the girls come from the Rapid City area, and it made sense to expand there.

The expansion to Rapid City isn't the only plan in the works either. Klooz said there are talks with officials in Huron, where Klooz said the Huron College is still in operation through Northern State University.

With state funding, Klooz said he would like to add independent living apartments with a few foster homes in Huron. And then because of the inexpensive tuition at the college, allow the children of Abbott House to attend the institution.

Klooz also said Abbott House is looking to instill a trust-based and trauma-focused programs. This will be more effective on the students, Klooz said, as well as allow some children to move through the program more quickly.

When he first started there was a small staff, and he said he and another employee often felt they were "on an island by ourselves," but that has since changed exponentially.

Fundraising has grown, and so has the board of directors and the foundation board for the Abbott House.

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"It's very exciting right now with things that are happening," Klooz said. "And I'm excited to see what happens next year."

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