Pierre’s Mary Gates has been nominated as a top candidate for the Spirit of Dakota Award.

The Spirit of South Dakota is considered by many to be South Dakota’s premier woman’s award. The finalist will be announced at the 33rd anniversary Celebration and Award Banquet in Huron, Saturday, Oct. 5. The banquet takes place at the Huron Event Center, beginning with an art show at 4 p.m, a social time at 5:30 p.m. and the banquet starting at 6:30 p.m.

The Spirit of Dakota Award is an annual honor bestowed each fall by the Spirit of Dakota Award Society. The Spirit of Dakota award is given to:

An outstanding South Dakota woman who has demonstrated leadership qualities and has been successful and admired in her community and state.

A woman with roots deep in Dakota whose courage and strength of character have helped develop her family and community.

A woman who has represented social, cultural, and education advancement for others.

This award is not Mother of the Year, nor Teacher of the Year, nor categorized but rather a recognition of those outstanding women who have been the symbols of all that we are proud of in our Prairie Women.

The nominee does not need to be a native of South Dakota, but must be a current, living resident of the state.

“The award is given to a woman who demonstrates leadership, vision, courage and strength of character; and by example, inspires others to make a difference in their community and state,” said Tona Rozum, chair of the state-wide commission who chooses the winner.

Other commission members — some of them previous award winners — include Glenna Fouberg, Aberdeen; Julie Garreau, EagleButte; Jean Hunhoff, Yankton; Suzette Kirby, Sioux Falls; Marsha Sumpter, Kadoka; Ginger Thomson, Brookings; Judy Trzynka, Watertown; and Bev Wright, Turton. The first lady of South Dakota is also on the commission.

This year is the first time ever a man has been on the board, with Bryon Noem, first gentleman of South Dakota, Pierre, joining the selection commission.

The award has existed since 1987. The 2018 winner was Bev Warne, Rapid City. A nominee from the Pierre area has never before won the award.

Dr. Rhea Waldman of the Discovery Center, nominated Gates.

“Mary Gates, Pierre, is also a teacher in and out of classrooms, especially outside. Her superpower seems to be connecting people to help her community grow stronger, safer and more generous through her work at Right Turn. She has put together the annual International Potluck Festival in Pierre. She’s helped many English Second Language students use art to both express themselves and turn their work into fundraising opportunities for others. She demonstrates servant leadership, as do all the nominees, through her joyful energy as teacher, supporter, organizer and environmentalist. Mary values and celebrates diversity and exchange.”

Gates and her accolades stand alongside the accomplishments of the other 2019 candidates: Evelyn Blum, Aberdeen; Amber Rae Hulse, Sioux Falls; Ruby McMillam Johannsen, Huron; Rhonda Kludt, Huron; Jo Vitek, Watertown; and Mary Helen Wipf, Huron.

Tickets for the banquet may be purchased at the Huron Chamber office by calling 605-352-8775 or 1-800-487-6673.

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