The new community center for the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in Fort Thompson stands out as inspiring, aesthetically pleasing – and practical.
Once the Boys & Girls Club of the Three Districts begins to use the new community center, funds that were seeping out of its old building in the form of lost energy might be used to better purpose.
The new building is well insulated and uses geothermal technology – and that, said Ronda Hawk, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, will allow for greater energy efficiency than the building it will replace. That means money that’s been poured into heating, for instance, can be channeled to better purpose.
“Some of our funding, we can put somewhere else,” she said.
Hawk mentioned trips to the libraries in Pierre and Chamberlain as possibilities now that funding may be freed up. She said the club could also bolster the work it already does with the Crow Creek Tribal School.
The new, approximately 7,200 square-foot structure – called the Mel & Elnita Rank Center – traces its roots to 2009, when the nonprofit organization Harvest Initiative landed a Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant of $500,000.
The federal money was administered by the South Dakota Housing Development Authority, and the contractor who worked on the building was Sharpe Enterprises Inc. from Pierre.
An open house is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday. Various community members and project partners will be on hand, lunch will be served and Boys & Girls Club members will provide entertainment.
The new center will house Boys & Girls programming for children age 6 to 11, and it will contain offices for Hunkpati Investments, a nonprofit Native Community Development Financial Institution. The Boys & Girls Club will conduct programming for older students in a different building.
Jason Yates, president of the Harvest Initiative, said the central location may help to make the new building a strong force in the community.
“It’s located right at the four-way stop in the middle of town,” he said.
Years ago, that spot was occupied by another sort of community center. Melvin and Elnita Rank – namesakes of the current building – owned a gas station that was a kind of community magnet in its own right.
Hawk is Elnita Rank’s daughter, and she said the gas station was open from the middle 1980s until 2001. It was the only gas station in the area, she said, and it also contained a laundromat and a recreational area for youth.
But after it closed down in 2001, the building began to deteriorate.
“It was just an eyesore for our reservation,” she said.
The new center, she said, will change the aesthetics.
“It makes our reservation look cleaner and healthier,” she said.
And it will add, Hawk noted, energy efficiency that can free up the Boys & Girls Club to devote funds into other tasks.
The new space also allows for privacy.
Krystal Langholz, executive director of Hunkpati Investments, said staff members will now have separate offices where they can consult with people who come in for financial help. That’s important, since much of the work requires privacy.
“We’re helping people fix their credit,” she said. “We do a lot of confidential client work.”
Langholz also said Hunkpati Investments has grown since its inception in 2009 – it now has six staff members – so the office space is helpful.
Hunkpati Investments is already using the center, and the Boys & Girls Club will move programming for children age 6 to 11 into the center on Monday, Hawk said.
People interested in more information can call 605-245-2148 or 605-245-2410.