Great Western Bank awards Volunteers of America $10K

April 13, 2019

DEADWOOD — A $10,000 donation from Great Western Bank to Volunteers of America will help send local kids to Camp POSTCARD at Outlaw Ranch in Hill City this summer.

The gift, part of Great Western Bank’s Making Life Great Grant Program, will assist in sending 25 students and six law enforcement professionals from Lawrence County to participate in the camp, a program of Volunteers of America.

Bryan Hencke, market president of Great Western Bank in Spearfish, said the program was a natural partnership for the grant program.

“Our funding targets programs that enhance the quality of life within our communities. The camp helps make positive connections for under-served youth and their families,” he said. “We strive to make life great in each of our communities by forming strategic partnerships with charitable organizations and addressing defined community needs. Volunteers of America is thrilled to partner with Great Western Bank in empowering our youth to make better choices for themselves through this life changing camp. For many this is a dream come true and would otherwise go without.”

Positively impacting kids in need, the camp provides underserved youth with a challenging and fun outdoor curriculum focusing on their self-esteem, leadership, and teamwork building activities.

“A strong anti-drug and alcohol message runs through the week-long camp as youth experience positive mentorships and build trusting and longstanding rapport with their counselors who are law enforcement and school resource officers from their respective home communities,” Hencke said. “These relationships continue as officers and youth return to work and school back in their home communities. Throughout the week, youth will experience activities and interactions that will convey self-worth, respect for one another, the ability to excel through shooting sports, low ropes team challenges and group problem solving.”

Open year-round, Outlaw Ranch is located on 200 acres of private forest, near Custer and provides a setting conducive to learning, relaxation and time apart.

“Camp POSTCARD builds positive bonds between youth, law enforcement and criminal justice. The experience provides a safe environment that stresses appropriate role models, ideals, and values,” Hencke said. “Campers are encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas while they learn the importance of self-respect and respect for others, teamwork, self-control, and dignity. Throughout the week a variety of activities help youth build self-esteem, leadership and decision-making skills, at this leadership and empowerment camp.”

Myles Kennedy, Volunteers of America board member, said the cost to attend the camp is approximately $1,000 per person.

“These are fifth- and sixth-graders from across the Black Hills and law enforcement will be spending a week with them,” Kennedy said, adding that the pool of students could draw from Whitewood, Lead, Deadwood, Spearfish, Newell, Sturgis, Rapid City, and Hill City, for example. “These are not troubled youth. They’re at-risk and picked by resource officers at the schools. If there is no resource officer, then the police or sheriff’s department makes contact with the schools.”

This is the second year of Camp POSTCARD western South Dakota.

“Last year, we had 60 kids from western South Dakota, and right now, we’re over 90 kids. Sioux Falls heard about it and they want to send kids. Pierre heard about it, and they want to send kids,” Kennedy said. “The word gets out. It’s so helpful for these kids. We try to get them before they get into drugs and in trouble and then they go back and they become mentors at their schools.”

Kennedy said a school principal shared that one child who had been in trouble on a regular basis attended the camp.

“He said after that, (the student) had not been in his office or in trouble at all,” Kennedy said. “There are so many success stories like that, it would make you tear up.”

Kennedy said that all the money to fund the camp is raised through donations or grants.

“We need donations in order to afford to do this,” Kennedy said. “We appreciate any type of donation. We do not charge police officers. We don’t charge kids. We go out and raise money, so it’s no cost to them. When they show up on Sunday morning, and, let’s say, for example, they might not have tennis shoes. We go out and buy all that for them. We want them to have the proper clothing so they all look the same. We want them to all be very comfortable, right from the get-go.”

For more information or to donate to Camp POSTCARD, call Kelly Folsom at 641-8336.

For detailed information on the Making Life Great grants, visit greatwesternbank.com/about-us/community/.

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