I “Grew Up” in Hand County

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Last week, I attended a conference about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and how it relates to Economic Development in rural communities. At this conference, I met with other Economic Development professionals as well as community leaders about the importance of making sure that everyone has a place in a community.

On the last day of the conference, we were challenged to tell our story and tie that story into DEI. You see… we all have a story. 

I didn’t grow up in Hand County. I was born and raised in Freeman, SD on highway 81. I graduated from Freeman High School and then went on to graduate from Black Hills State University. I worked in Deadwood at the Chamber of Commerce and then at a hotel/casino as the marketing and gaming manager. After a few years in Deadwood, I realized I needed a change. My family reached out telling me about an opportunity in St. Lawrence.

I moved to St. Lawrence. Never in my life did I think I would be in the basement of a funeral home living with my brother and his family in a town of 200 people. I managed Willie’s Bar and Grill and worked with my parents. I loved everything about Hand County but I loved the people the most. I had a tip jar that read, “get me out my brothers basement fund” and that tip jar got me a house to rent in Miller from a very generous and kind family.  I ended up meeting my future husband on a blind date that was set up by his dad and best friend. We got married and started a family in Miller. We now have two sons, Lincoln (9) and Miles (7). We bought the home that my husband actually grew up in Miller and made it our home.

I didn’t grow up in Hand County but it is where I grew. I grew in so many ways. I became a wife, a mom, a business owner, and a professional. We are now making the life that we have always wanted. The life we have always wanted is possible because we live in a rural community. This rural community that we get to call home has every opportunity we have ever wanted.

Rural communities are so much more than just people that are born and raised in them. They are the place that ANYBODY can have the life they want. They are the place for more opportunities, safety, quality of life, people that care about them, and people that take care of each other. We need all people in order for our community to thrive. We will not continue as a community with just the people that grew up in Hand County.

This summer, I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with a family from another country that has recently made Miller home. Their story is much different than mine. Their language is different than mine. Their culture is different than mine. Their skin color is different than mine. But do you know what we have in common? We both LOVE where we live and Miller is a part of both of our stories.  

I didn’t grow up in Hand County but I really did “grow up” here. Everyone welcomed me with open arms when I moved here, like I was part of the community for years. I sure hope and pray that our community welcomes ALL people with open arms so they have the opportunity to tell their story and how great of community we get to live in. I challenge you to share your story with someone outside our community. Your story might have something to offer Hand County and help our community continue to thrive

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