Abbott House Alum Williams Donates Artwork to Abbott House

MITCHELL, S.D.  –  Billy Beers and his siblings Wavelene and Bobby were brought to the Abbott House in 1945.  Today Billy Beers is Bill Williams. Because of the significant impact Abbott House has had on his life, Bill Williams wanted to give something back to Abbott House.  He commissioned Karen Bakke, a South Dakota artist, to create a painting of the Abbott House fire.  Williams donated the original artwork to the Abbott House during the 2021 Ernie Peters Day celebration.

On December 18, 1945 fire destroyed the first Abbott House located at 508 East 5th St in Mitchell.  This structure became a safe haven and a home to the three Beers siblings, so the fire was a very traumatic experience for them.  Then, on January 20, 1946 Bill and his brother Bob were adopted by Everett and Aura Williams of Cresbard, South Dakota.  His sister Wavelene, joined the Williams family later that year.

Williams and all of the Abbott House children safely escaped the 1945 fire, but it destroyed the building.  They moved into a temporary location at 421 N Lawler known as the “old Scallin home.”  Shortly before Christmas 1950, the Abbott House children were moved into a new “state of the art” center located at 1111 West University Ave., which is now part of Dakota Wesleyan University.  Abbott House operated from that building until 1993 when the Agency acquired the Eugene Field Elementary School and remodeled it to serve its current needs.

“Like many Abbott House alums from that era, Bill’s story is one of perseverance, determination and success,” Eric Klooz, Abbott House executive director, said.  “Through the years, the focus on the safety and the healing of traumatized children has remained constant at Abbott House.  Bill’s story is truly empowering.”

 Williams, who says he began his life “dirt poor”, graduated from Miller High School, served in the Merchant Marines, graduated from West Valley College and San Jose State University, became a pilot, married and settled in California for 25 years.  He and his wife, Beverly returned to South Dakota in 1987 where they created a racing themed restaurant called Victory Lane in Sioux Falls.   Today, they own Brown and Williams Properties, LLC and continue to live in retirement in Sioux Falls.  

Bill Williams writes in his book, Cat Eyes on the Horizon, that he has wondered through the years what his life would be like if he was raised by his abusive parents.  He says “My guess is sooner or later I would have been in jail looking out.”

For more information about Abbott House, please contact Eric Klooz or Virginia Wishard Lambert at (605) 996-2486.


“Build Abbott” Recreates Motorcycle Rebuild Program for Foster Children

Rapid City, SD – “Build Abbott”, a re-established motorcycle rebuild program for Abbott House foster children, just named its newest project — INSPIRE.

“I picked this name to inspire others to try things they don’t have in interest in,” said the foster child who won the motorcycle naming contest.  “I like the word ‘Inspire’ because other people – like my foster family – inspire me.”

INSPIRE, a 2013 Harley Davidson Road King, simply has nothing special about it.  No one has invested in this bike or tried to make it the beautiful bike it could be.  So, as part of the Build Abbott project, 24 youth from four Bridges by Abbott House therapeutic foster homes will transform this bike as they rebuild their lives. 

Build Abbott is a three month classroom project giving Bridges by Abbott House foster youth in Rapid City the practical, hands-on experience of repairing and customizing a motorcycle. This project brings together facilitators, Katie and James Washnok, owners of Blackout Industries, and Black Hills Harley Davidson in a partnership helping young people learn valuable life skills including, teamwork, communication and marketing.

“Each of these kids is a true inspiration, making the name of this bike even more fitting. We feel honored to work with this outstanding group of young people, raising money for such a worthy cause,” Katie said.  “The Abbott House is an invaluable asset to the most worthy of our community, as they help kids from across the state of South Dakota. We can’t wait for the public debut of this one of a kind custom motorcycle, and celebrate all of the kid’s hard work!”

During the rebuild process foster youth will assess the damage, take the bike apart, and create a new paint design and name for the motorcycle. “All of the enhancements – the unique design, new handle bars, saddle bags, exhaust and other features, and hands-on work helps our youth understand they have the power and the skills to improve the motorcycle all while improving their own lives,” Eric Klooz, Abbott House Executive Director, said.  The facilitators and Abbott House foster home youth are meeting regularly in the “shop” at Black Hills Harley Davidson to create a beautiful motorcycle with a uniqueness all its own while providing education, empowerment and encouragement.

This one-of-a-kind motorcycle rebuilt by foster children, will be raffled off.  Tickets are $100 each.  Only 750 tickets will be sold, so be sure to get your ticket NOW!  The winner of this bike will own a customized motorcycle designed and rebuilt by at-risk youth.  Tickets can be purchased at www.abbotthouse.org, by calling 605-996-2486, or by contacting one of the Abbott House board members.

Abbott House children have rebuilt five damaged motorcycles from 2011 to 2017 while rebuilding their own lives. Proceeds from this project and all other motorcycle rebuild projects are used to provide enhanced therapy and educational opportunities for Abbott House youth.


Make Christmas Special for Children AND Double Your Gift During Giving Tuesday

MITCHELL, S.D. – Abbott House is looking for individuals, businesses and corporations who want to create great Christmas memories for the 99 young people in its care this year. Due to a generous donor, all gifts given from now until midnight on December 1, 2020, will be doubled up to $10,000!

The effort is part of the global generosity movement, Giving Tuesday, created to unleash the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and their world by giving back on December 1, 2020.

“This year COVID restrictions have limited support from groups and organizations who normally help Abbott House children during the holidays,” Eric Klooz, executive director said. “With 99 young people in our care, we have set a goal to raise $100 for each child for Christmas. When we do that we will receive the $10,000 matching gift.”

Giving Tuesday was launched in 2012 as a simple idea: to create a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past eight years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Those interested in helping Abbott House children for Christmas can give at https://abbotthouse.org/giving2020/ or by calling Abbott House to make a gift or pledge at 605-996-2486. Gifts can also be mailed to Abbott House, PO Box 700, Mitchell, SD, 57301. “Giving now will guarantee that your gift is matched,” Klooz said. “Thank you for helping us help children heal.”


Abbott House Nears End of Fund Drive with Community Campaign Matching Dollars

MITCHELL, S.D.  – Abbott House is looking for individuals, businesses and corporations who want to help provide a home and a family for six foster boys in Mitchell while doubling their investment.  Avera Health has partnered with the Abbott House fund drive effort to provide a dollar-to-dollar match for the next $20,000 in donations.

Abbott House kicked off a $1 million fund drive in Mitchell in January to provide funding for a therapeutic foster home for six boys and four independent living apartments for young adult men.  Then the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“We have been extremely blessed by the Mitchell community,” Eric Klooz, Abbott House executive director said.  “We needed $1 million to purchase and renovate an existing structure, as well as provide a small endowment fund to support maintenance of the home and supplies for the young people living there.”

Klooz continued, “Just like your children and my children, our foster children want to play football or basketball or be in show choir, and we do not have any funding to support these activities.  The endowment will help us give these young boys the life experiences we all want our children to have.”

Foundations, corporations and individuals have committed $697,769.60 to date.  The goal of the community campaign is to raise the remainder of the funding needed – $302,231.40 – by the end of 2020.  “The gift from Avera Health will help us get even closer,” Klooz said.  Gifts and pledges of all sizes are being accepted.  One-time gifts of any amount and pledges of three to five years are also an option.  There are also opportunities to support or name specific rooms within the home.

“As foster care needs increase, Abbott House has been asked by the South Dakota Department of Social Services to provide families and homes for teens and young adults,” Klooz said.  “We are honored to be able to help young people ‘finish the race’ by supporting them as they transition out of treatment into foster care and eventually become young adults living independently.”

When this home is completed, Abbott House will provide homes and families for 42 girls and boys ages 10 to 17 in its foster care program.  In addition, it will have eight apartments for young women and four for young men across the state.  By the end of 2020, those numbers will increase again with the addition of another boys’ therapeutic foster home and independent living apartments in Rapid City.

Donations to support the foster home for boys can be made by calling Virginia at 605-996-2486 ext. 120 or online at www.abbotthouse.org.  Gifts can also be mailed to Abbott House, PO Box 700, Mitchell, SD, 57301.  For more information about Abbott House, please contact Eric Klooz or Virginia Wishard Lambert at (605) 996-2486.


Abbott House Awarded Grant to Support COVID Expenses

Rapid City, S.D. –  Abbott House will receive $18,000 through a partnership with the Black Hills Area Community Foundation, the John T. Vucurevich Foundation and the United Way of the Black Hills to assist with costs directly tied to increased needs with COVID-19.

Expenses due to COVID-19 have well exceeded $10,000 at the Bridges by Abbott House foster homes in Rapid City.   In addition to cleaning and sanitization supplies, increased food costs, hygiene products and technology needs have stretched foster home budgets beyond their limits. 

“Feeding children three meals a day and snacks, which are normally supported through the school breakfast and lunch programs, has caused more than a 20% increase in food budgets in our program,” Eric Klooz, executive director of the Abbott House said.  “In addition, we have been operating over capacity in each of our foster homes, so computer access to complete school assignments has been extremely challenging for our families.  This support will help out tremendously as we begin opening two new foster homes and independent living apartments.”

A joint funding effort by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation, the John T. Vucurevich Foundation and the United Way of the Black Hills will bring technology to children and young adults in the Bridges by Abbott House foster homes.  Access to technology in these homes is necessary for tele-health and education, especially when the young people are studying at home due to school shutdowns caused by COVID-19. 

“Abbott House children have been extremely blessed by the Rapid City community and all of the funding organizations within the Black Hills area,” Klooz said.  “Because of this ongoing collaborative support, Abbott House will be providing homes, families and support for more than 60 young people in the Black Hills by the end of 2020.”

Abbott House provides residential treatment services for girls ages 7 to 17 who have suffered trauma and abuse.  Children come to Abbott House with physical and emotional scars and the tragic burden of being disregarded. Without help, many of these young children perpetuate the cycle of violence and punish themselves indefinitely for the tragedy that was placed on their shoulders. In 2002 Abbott House began providing therapeutic foster care for children ages 10 to 17. The Bridges therapeutic foster care program was expanded in Mitchell in 2013-2014.  Then in 2016-2017, two therapeutic foster homes were opened in the Black Hills region and served approximately 45 foster youth annually.  For more information about Abbott House, please contact Eric Klooz or Virginia Wishard Lambert at (605) 996-2486.


Abbott House Benefits from United Way of the Black Hills COVID Relief Fund

United Way of the Black Hills awards $36,500 to
six grant recipients this week through UNITED
We Stand COVID-19 Relief Fund


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Audrea Amstutz
Email: audrea@unitedwayblackhills.org
Cell phone: (605) 858-8276


(RAPID CITY, SD) – United Way of the Black Hills (UWBH) announced six more grant awards to nonprofit organizations in the amount of $36,500; for a total of $115,944 awarded to 14 organizations. To date, the UNITED We Stand COVID-19 Relief Fund has raised a total of $418,506.52 and has received 28 applications for funding.

The recent nonprofit organization recipients are as follows:


Black Hills Special Services Cooperative – $12,000

The need: A need for computers and technology for households to continue
online education.
How these funds will assist the need: To purchase computers for
households to continue online education for children and adult learning. In
addition, BHSSC provides economic assistance to students via the recently
created Student Support Fund. Funds are used for emergencies only; suchneeds as rent assistance, utilities, fuel, bus passes, employment uniform/attire, employment tools, education/training materials and supplies (including technology and devices, which was recently added due to new needs in response to Coronavirus).

Volunteers of America – $10,000
The need: A lack of sufficient shelter for the homeless population due to the
increase in CDC guidelines.
How these funds will assist the need: To provide shelter at a hotel/motel to
upwards of 20 individuals.


WAVI (Women Working Against Violence) – $5,000
The need: An increase for food, essential non-food supplies, and activities for residents in the shelter.
How these funds will assist the need: To provide food and the necessary
non-essential supplies to continue operations.


Spearfish Nutrition Site – $4,000*
The need: An increased need for meals to serve to local senior citizens.
How these funds will assist the need: To provide assistance to purchase
meals.
*This amount will be matched by Black Hills Area Community Foundation


Abbott House – $3,000
The need: A lack in supplies: Food, toilet paper, paper towels and creative
supplies for mental wellness activities for residents.
How these funds will assist the need: To purchase the necessary supplies
to continue day to day operations.


New Dawn Enterprises – $2,500
The need: A lack in toilet paper, paper towels and creative supplies for mental wellness activities for residents
How these funds will assist the need: To purchase the necessary supplies
to continue day to day operations.


UWBH is in close contact with community representatives throughout the
Black Hills to stay abreast of local issues and needs.
“One of the top take-aways from these meetings is these needs will not
decrease in one week, or even a month or two. However, local non-profit
organizations are feeling the impact in their operations, which may become a critical need in the coming months. Therefore, we must be prepared to
continue to distribute funds as needs evolve and grow,” says Jamie Toennies, Executive Director of United Way of the Black Hills.


UWBH will continue accepting applications until all funds from the UNITED We Stand COVID-19 Relief Fund have been distributed.

Nonprofit organizations that have experienced an increased demand for
services or resources due to the pandemic are encouraged to apply for the
grant (https://www.unitedwayblackhills.org/coronavirus-information)


100% of donations to the UNITED We Stand COVID-19 Relief fund will benefit nonprofit organizations that apply for a grant. If you would like to make a donation to the fund, you may do so by visiting our website:https://www.unitedwayblackhills.org/donate.


For more information on the UNITED We Stand COVID-19 Relief Fund, please visit: https://www.unitedwayblackhills.org/coronavirus-information.

###

Sincerely,


Audrea Amstutz,
Marketing Manager
United Way of the Black Hills
audrea@unitedwayblackhills.org


Abbott House Responds to Coronavirus Need with Give $5 Save Kids Lives – Joining #GivingTuesdayNow in Global Day of Giving and Unity

Mitchell/Rapid City –  Abbott House is meeting the immediate food and supply needs of children in our care by kicking off the Give $5 to Save Kids Lives campaign on May 5, #GivingTuesdayNow.     

As part of the Give $5 to Save Kids Lives Campaign, donors who make a gift to Abbott House on Tuesday, May 5th, #GivingTuesdayNow, will double their support with a matching gift up to $10,000.  

#GivingTuesdayNow is a global day of giving and unity in response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.  The day is designed to drive support for communities and nonprofits around the world.

“At this time, most of us cannot volunteer time, donate food or supplies, or share a cup of coffee, but we CAN give back,” Eric Klooz, Abbott House executive director, said.  “When we experience crisis like  the pandemic, generosity is what brings people of all races, faiths, and political views together.  Generosity gives each of us the power to make a positive change in the lives of others.  It is a fundamental value any of us can act on.”

Additional expenses at the Abbott House caused by the coronavirus have well exceeded $30,000.  “Our foster homes are at or above capacity, meaning three meals a day for 8 to 10 people per home,” Klooz said.  “In addition, most of our young adults are not working for safety reasons, so Abbott House provides additional food and support to each of them.”

During May 5, #GivingTuesdayNow, Abbott House has chosen to pay tribute to foster parents, alumni, staff and donors who give our children hope and make our program successful.  During the day, Abbott House will share stories through social media and online on the YouTube Channel: Abbott House SD

Abbott House is asking everyone to Give $5 to Save Kids Lives.  “It doesn’t matter if it is $5, $55 or $500,” Klooz said.  “Every cent gives a child food and supplies needed to keep them safe and give them hope.  It’s a day for everyone to stand together and give back; regardless of who or where you are you can give back to Abbott House children or to one of your other favorite causes.  Generosity is not about size, it is about hope.  Call an elderly neighbor to check in on them; leave signs at our local food pantry or hospital, every act of kindness is a sign of hope in this crisis. We all have something to give, and every act of kindness matters.”

People can show their generosity in a variety of ways during #GivingTuesdayNow, whether it’s helping a neighbor, advocating for an issue, sharing a skill, or giving to causes, every act of generosity counts. The global movement emphasizes opportunities to give back to communities and causes in safe ways that allow for social connection even while practicing physical distancing.

Those interested in joining Abbott House’s #GivingTuesdayNow efforts can visit https://abbotthouse.org/give5/ or call Abbott House at 605-996-2486.

Abbott House is a private charity that provides residential treatment services to youth between the ages of 7 and 23. The agency provides intensive residential treatment, therapeutic foster care and an independent living program.  The Abbott House is truly dedicated to providing services to children and families that promote personal development and foster responsible behaviors with others.


You Have the Power to Change Children’s Lives

April 2020

April is child abuse awareness month, but April 2020 is definitely different from other years.  Usually there would be events bringing awareness to this issue and encouraging people to watch for signs of abuse or neglect and to reach out to families in stressful situations.

This year we are all faced with anxiety, fear and uncertainty.  Our routines have been upended.  Many of us are working from home while helping our children with school work.  Others have lost our jobs or had our employment hours cut.  Either way, our daily environments are more stressful than normal for all us – adults and children alike. 

Ironically, at Abbott House we are helping children who have lived with this feeling of uncertainty for much of their lives.  Our children aren’t just experiencing concern about a virus, they have lived in extremely stressful environments for most of their lives.  You see, children who have lived through abuse, neglect and other negative events understand this feeling of vulnerability better than most of us.

In South Dakota 1,339 children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2017, an increase of 36.1% from 2013 according to the Child Welfare League of America.  Of these children, 89.8% were neglected, 11.8% were physically abused, and 4.4% were sexually abused.  The report goes on to say that of the 1,339 abused children, 664 were boys, 673 were girls and 2 were of unknown sex.  As I read and re-read information like this what turns my stomach most are these numbers – 1,045 of the 1339 children were “first-time” victims, meaning no previous abuse had been reported.  How could we have prevented this?  How could we have protected 294 children from being abused a second, third or fourth time?

This information is alarming, especially during times like these when we have even more stress on families.  Many kids typically rely on going to school to socialize and find trusted adults with whom they can share their struggles.  Right now they don’t have access to anyone outside their home.  But we can help each other during these challenging times.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.  Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from adults around them.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children, teens, older people with chronic diseases, and people who have mental health conditions often respond more strongly to stress during crisis conditions.  When we deal with stress, like the Coronavirus, calmly and with accurate information, it reassures our children.

According to the CDC, not all children and teens respond to stress the same way.  Common changes in behavior to watch for include:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability or “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain.

If you see these behaviors in your child(ren), make sure you:

  • Talk with them about the coronavirus outbreak
  • Answer questions and share facts in a way your child or teen can understand
  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe.  Let them know it is ok if they feel upset.  Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from what you do
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines.  Create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities
  • Be a role model to your children.  Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise and eat well, reach out to friends and family.
  • Reach out to others you think may be struggling and talk with them – it will help you and it will help them.

Today we have the opportunity to spend more time with our children than ever.  I encourage you to use this time to make great memories with your children and help others do the same.  Together we can stop abuse and give our children valuable skills they will use to face future challenges and crisis situations.


A Message From Our Executive Director

April 10, 2020

Today we are faced with anxiety and uncertainty. We have questions about our future and the new reality each one of us will face. We feel like we are experiencing on ongoing earthquake that never stops shaking and changing things.

Ironically at Abbott House we are helping children who have lived with this feeling of vulnerability for much of their lives. Not a feeling of vulnerability about a virus, but a feeling of uncertainty about their lives. You see, children who have lived through abuse, neglect and other negative events understand the feeling of life being out of control.

In our programs we see the fallout from these life events. Even in this time of uncertainty, we continue to work hard to provide safety and stability for our young people and our staff. We know that during times of sickness and dramatic change, our own children need us more than ever. It is the same for the young people in our care. Our commitment to South Dakota children has never been stronger thanks to the dedicated Abbott House employees who are working tirelessly to maintain a sense of normalcy for our youth.

Our residential treatment program is operating as usual with girls attending school and living in our treatment facility like they always do. They miss seeing the many volunteers who come to tutor, entertain or educate them, but they understand limiting visitors will keep them safe. In our Bridges therapeutic foster homes in Rapid City and Mitchell, we are above capacity. There are so many children who need a family and a safe home right now. Our foster parents are truly amazing. Every one of our homes is operating like a “home school,” with scheduled class times and study times for each home so our young people can adequately access computers and other technology to complete classroom assignments. They are having virtual visits with social workers and coordinating telehealth with counselors.

Perhaps the students who are struggling the most are those who are no longer employed. Some of our foster children and our young adults in the independent living program lost their jobs due to the situation. Because of these hardships, we have waived rent for all of our independent living occupants and are helping to pay for their basic needs such as food, medicine, clothing, transportation, and other basic needs while also offering encouragement during this difficult time.

Yet, despite all of these challenges, our amazing and dedicated staff continues to encourage and support each other, while serving our youth and families with understanding and compassion. We know there are still challenging weeks ahead.

We cannot do this alone. The financial burden being felt by so many is also persistent at Abbott House. If you would like to help the youth and our staff with necessary masks, groceries, transportation and other medical needs, please use the following link to give online.

Donate

Thank you for helping during this challenging time. We will get through this TOGETHER and we will be stronger in the end.

Stay safe and healthy,

Eric Klooz
Executive Director


Abbott House Prepared for COVID-19

With several presumptive positive cases of Coronavirus-19 and one death across South Dakota, tensions continue to rise as we prepare ourselves against the spread of the virus.  At Abbott House we have taken steps to help shield our staff and the young people in our care from being exposed to this highly contagious virus. 

We have suspended all off grounds activities, the use of volunteers coming to our residential treatment facility and our foster homes, and visits from anyone other than immediate family.   Visitors to the Abbott House Residential Treatment Center, including families of Abbott House young people, are being asked to be mindful of their health.  We are making Skype and Zoom available to all parents and guardians so they can stay in close contact with their children. 

At this point, anyone who currently has a cough, fever or cold-like symptoms, is being asked not to visit the Abbott House Residential Treatment Center or Bridges by Abbott House Foster Homes.  Staff members have met with young people in the residential treatment center and Bridges foster homes to discuss the Coronavirus insuring that young people have relevant information without creating panic among the youth and staff.

In an email to Abbott House staff, Executive Director Eric Klooz stated, “If staff or young people contract the virus, we have a plan in place to help keep others safe.  The best prevention is handwashing and using disinfectant to wash surfaces.”    If our staff and Abbott House visitors use the common-sense guidelines offered by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we will get through this.  As the situation develops we will continue to make adjustments as necessary.