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Thank You Event

Sioux Empire United Way celebrated a successful fundraising campaign for the 25th consecutive year at our annual Thank You Event.

The 2020 Campaign total is $10,084,447 on a goal of $10,074,508.

Sioux Empire United Way’s 2020 Campaign was supported by 700 area businesses and more than 22,000 individual givers. The dollars raised during this year’s campaign will fund 85 different programs that help children, vulnerable adults and people in crisis.

The event also recognized several individuals for outstanding community and United Way leadership:

David Birkeland Memorial Award - This award is given to the business or professional leader who most exemplifies David Birkeland’s involvement in United Way and our community.  A tribute to David reads: His smile invited conversation, his manner put strangers at ease, his style engendered trust and his humor broke down barriers.  Dave was a servant leader whose example was an expression of his spirit.

Recipient: Jeff Strand
Jeff started his career with Eide Bailly in 1979, moving to Sioux Falls in 1989. Upon moving to Sioux Falls, Jeff became involved with United Way. He has served roles within the Campaign and Community Impact Divisions and the Board of Directors. Notably, Jeff was the Chair of the Board of Directors in 2009 and currently serves on the Board as the Community Impact Division’s Chair. Jeff and his wife Reneece have been loyal Heart Club members, currently at the Alexis de Tocqueville Society level and are also members of the Legacy Heart Club. In addition to his roles within Sioux Empire United Way, Jeff has also served on several other non-profit boards. He is currently the Treasurer of the Board for the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation and is also currently on the Board of the South Dakota Board of Accountancy.

Larry Oppold Memorial Award - This award is given to a human services professional for outstanding dedication to his or her work and for demonstrating the qualities that Larry believed in during his life.  Larry was a thoughtful, caring, and compassionate person who acted as an advocate for those in need.

Recipient: Michelle Trent
Michelle is the Assistant Director and Clinic Director of The Compass Center, a non-profit providing counseling and advocacy services for individuals who have been affected by sexual assault and/or domestic violence. Michelle has been with the agency for 6 years, starting as a counselor and advocate. One of Michelle’s current roles is leading the educational efforts of the agency. Michelle developed a free training for local businesses regarding prevention of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic violence. She also developed a training for area bars to recognize sexual harassment and assault. Additionally, Michelle provides advocacy to individuals who have experienced sexual assault through Compass Center’s Rape Crisis On-Call service and is a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team.

Helen E. (Oppold) Blair Memorial Award - This award is to be presented to an individual whose work in human services, law enforcement, education, or church based fields towards child abuse prevention and early intervention is exemplary.

Recipient: Sue Williams
Sue has dedicated her career of over 30 years to serving children whose lives have been impacted by abuse. She currently serves as the Residential Program Director with Children’s Home Society and in that role she has a direct impact on the children the organization serves. Sue’s knowledge of trauma and providing children who have experienced trauma with what they need and deserve is second to none. She responds to the children in a way that makes them feel safe, cared for, and empowered – all things these children have often never felt before coming to Children’s Home Society. These children and our community are better off because of Sue.

Heart Club Philanthropist Award - This award is given to a Heart Club member or company who has demonstrated active involvement and has also encouraged or influenced others to contribute.

Recipient: Monie Siemonsma
After years of volunteering with Sioux Empire United Way in various roles within Community Impact and the Campaign, Monie stepped in to chair Heart Club for the 2019 and 2020 Campaigns. Monie approached the role thoughtfully, looking for strategies that would benefit Heart Club and our members. She started by hand-writing thank you notes to 1,300 Heart Club members who have given consistently for 10 or more years. 46% of the recipients responded by increasing their pledge this year. She also highlighted the work of our funded agencies sharing short videos encouraging attendance at agency tours. Attendance at agency tours increased as a result. 

Brent Weiler Bulldog Award - Awarded to a Team 2 Sioux Empire United Way volunteer who has shown determination and persistence in working with small businesses to achieve campaign success.

Recipient: Ray Peterson
Ray spent his first years volunteering within Team 1, serving as an Employee Campaign Manager, Loaned Executive, and Corporate Gifts Campaigner. He made his way into Team 2 in 2014 and hasn’t looked back. Ray leads Medium Firms A with 4 section chairs and 18 campaigners. He leads his team by example, personally calling on several accounts himself each year. For 3 years, Ray called on an area business, repeatedly being told a United Way campaign wouldn’t work out this year. Ray made a personal visit again this year, leading to a new gift of $10,0000! Ray’s leadership has rippled out across his Medium Firms A team, which achieved an 8.5% increase in this year’s campaign.

Rich Garry Rookie of the Year Award - This award is given to a first-time Sioux Empire United Way volunteer who has stepped up and made a tremendous impact in their role, helping to fulfill the mission of Sioux Empire United Way.

Recipient: Chad Pederson
Chad’s two roles this year included serving as Employee Campaign Manager for Minnwest Bank and as a campaigner within Team 2’s Medium Firms A. In Chad’s role as ECM, Minnwest Bank achieved a 13.9% increase in giving. In his role as a campaigner, Chad was among the first campaigners to complete all of his campaign accounts. He also brought in a first-time corporate gift of $300 and a new employee campaign of more than $500. Chad’s first year volunteering had an immediate impact and his enthusiasm and talents were a great addition to United Way’s team.

Volunteer of the Year Award - This award is given to the volunteer who selflessly and generously gives of his or her time and talents to help fulfill the mission of the Sioux Empire United Way.

Recipient: Bill Smith
Bill’s current role within Sioux Empire United Way is as the Retiree Campaign Division’s Chair. Since starting as chair in 2017, the division has increased their number of givers by 20% and increased the dollars given by 57%. This year alone the division had a 26% increase in giving, raising $265,000. In the 90s, Bill served as a Planning Volunteer. He returned later as a member of the Diversity Impact Team. He served as a member of our Board of Directors from 2009-2015. He and his wife Twyla have been long time Heart Club members. In every way he has served, Bill has brought to the table an in-depth understanding of the processes and needs of our community. 


Please view our previous award winners