MITCHELL, S.D. – Together Tona Rozum and Lou Ora Houk have
been changing lives at the Abbott House for nearly 75 years. They were two of the people honored for
helping children “Triumph Over Trauma” during the annual Abbott House Education
and Appreciation Celebration. The
Mitchell High School Volleyball team and long-time employee Linda Christensen were
also recognized for their efforts in changing the lives of children in need.
Children’s Champion Award
Tona Rozum is
one of the recipients of the 2018 Abbott House Children’s Champion Awards. This award recognizes longtime commitment and
service to Abbott House and the children served there. Rozum began serving on the Abbott House board
of directors in 1972 and has been changing lives at Abbott House ever since.
When she began her work on the board, Abbott House was
just acquiring a new director, Ernie Peters.
Rozum has been involved in an organizational refocusing efforts, its
expansion of the psychiatric residential treatment program and creation of the
Bridges Therapeutic Foster Home program and the Larson Independent Living
In 2015 Rozum and her husband, John, won the Second
Chances motorcycle drawing – which included two Harley Davidson Sportster
motorcycles – and donated their prize back to the Abbott House children. The two motorcycles were raffled a second
time, which generated an additional $10,000 for Abbott House children.
“Tona is someone I can call on to get an outside perspective
on any issue dealing with social services,” Eric Klooz, Abbott House director, said. “Her legislative, business and financial
background give her the experience to help our agency see things from a
different perspective. Tona’s vision and
work with the and work with the Abbott House Foundation will have an impact on
South Dakota’s children for decades to come. She is a true champion for
Lou Ora Houk
learned about Abbott House from her mother years ago. Houk began changing lives at the agency
since she came to Dakota Wesleyan University in 1946. Houk was involved with Abbott House in
different ways while a DWU student and when she started working as a nurse, she
started support the children financially.
Houk and the First United Methodist Quilters in
Mitchell have made hundreds of blankets to give to Abbott House children. These blankets are one of the first items
children receive when they come to Abbott House and they take the blankets with
them when they leave. “For many of our
children, these blankets are the first item someone has ever made specifically
for them,” Klooz said. “The blanket
gives them a sense of safety, security and love that they never have
To insure Houk’s support will continue to change
children’s lives for years to come, she made an annuity gift to Abbott
House. “Now her legacy will live on in
the lives of children forever,” Klooz said.
Abbott House began making special recognitions about
11 years ago after Ernie Peters, former Abbott House executive director passed
away. “At that time, the staff realized
we had many, many wonderful people who cared for our children and we wanted to
celebrate them in tribute to the late Ernie Peters,” Klooz said.
Linda Christensen has
been an Abbott House employee for more than 25 years. During that time she has held two official
titles Night Staff Worker and Night Youth Supervisor. “Linda has a heart for our children. Nights can often be difficult for children
when they are out of the environment they are used to, but Linda has always
been there to help out in whatever way she could,” Klooz said. Christensen is most well-known for being the
Abbott House Easter Bunny, Christmas Elf, and Tooth Fairy.
The Mitchell High
School Volleyball team came to the Abbott House to teach the girls volleyball
skills, but the experience became much more.
In fact, MHS Volleyball players
enjoyed their time so much after the first six weeks of lessons that they
continue to come to the Abbott House and even invited the Abbott House girls to
a home game to be “honorary guests.” One
Abbott House girl wrote this, “Thanks for being terrific mentors and great
friends. You not only taught me new
skills, but you boosted my self-esteem.”
For more information
about Abbott House, please contact Eric Klooz or Virginia Wishard Lambert at