Volunteerism: important to people and Hill City

By Jeff Smith

Sue Anderson fills a purse with donated items at the Hill City Senior Center Dec. 17.

Hill City is a small city, but they hold some of the best events in the Black Hills. Some of the best events are in the summertime. In order to make those function properly there needs to be enough people around who want to help.

As Janet Wetovick-Bily, Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, said, volunteers in small communities truly are the lifeblood and sustaining force for holding events, organizations and good deeds.  She said Hill City is incredibly lucky to have such a high percentage of generous, giving people who do so much day in and day out and for all of the events. 

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart”, which can be attributed to Jean-Baptiste Massieu, is used in thank-yous from Wetovick-Bily. She uses it for each and everyone who volunteers and gives of themselves — from chamber board members to everyone who volunteers in Hill City.

Sue Anderson, who received the Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award for 2017, said it is rewarding to her to help out. She also has fun at the different activities. In addition to helping at the different chamber of commerce events she regularly volunteers at Community Lutheran Church and the Hill City Senior Center. Anderson is also involved in the Xi Alpha Chi Sorority.

This is one group of ladies that takes part in a lot of local civic projects.

“It warms your heart when you can help out at community functions,” Anderson said.

There are a lot of different things people can volunteer for in the city. It’s not just at events or in the summer either.

Xi Alpha Chi volunteers for the Olde Tyme Christmas event and Hill City Senior Center has events year-round.

“So many people like to give a hand when it’s needed,” Anderson said.

She said over the years there have been more people volunteering because there have been more local activities.

“We were pleased to recognize one of our own, the Visitor Information Center’s Sue Anderson as Chamber Volunteer of the Year for 2017,” said Wetovick-Bily.

“Sue is one of those people who gives of herself without any thought of reward or recognition; she does because she cares, which is the spirit of all volunteers.”

Mikal Lewis, who with his wife Colleen was the 2017 Hill City Prevailer Citizen of the Year, is involved in volunteering on boards and helps out at various events in the community. He is the Chairman of the Grand Lodge Board of Trustees, treasurer at Tin City Lodge #112,  a member of the the Friends of the Library, board member of the South Dakota State Railroad museum, a member of the Pennington County Special Animal Keeping Committee and the president of the Hill City Public Library Board of Trustees. He was also the Trustee of the Year for the South Dakota Library Association in 2016.

Lewis said he is a restless person who doesn’t like to sit around so volunteering fits him well.

“The thing about volunteering is that it is doing something that you want to do,” Lewis said.

“If you don’t want to do it you can just walk away.”

He retired around 15 years ago after working for General Electric for 27 years.

For anyone who has worked for a business for that long and then retires, they can’t just stop.

That is where volunteering comes in for him.

Lewis said that people who live in a small community can’t complain if they don’t get involved.

He said he volunteers at the state level because he can rub shoulders with all types of people he might not otherwise get a chance to. Since South Dakota is a big state he emails a lot to keep in touch with people at the state level.

Lewis thinks people who come from other areas volunteer more than the locals. One of the people he mentioned was Dale Householder.

“He has made a huge difference,” Lewis said.

More of the people that are moving into the area are retired.

“People are in the the same situation. They want to help out, stay busy,” Lewis said.

Lewis thinks that as the community tightens up there is going to be more of a reliance on volunteering.

In the past he has helped with the Wine, Brew and BBQ as well as the Polar Bear Chili Cook-off that are sponsored by the Tin City Masons.

As far as how many people volunteer he has figured out that there are fewer people who are going to volunteer than the amount of people who say they are going to a volunteer.

“Any organization has a meeting where they ask for people who can volunteer. People’s hands go up and say ‘I can’” Lewis said.

“You have to divide that in two, at least half.”

Lewis has had instances where he has had to do more than his share of the work.

He said that if he can do something, then he should just go ahead and it instead of having other people do it later.

Two of the biggest events for Hill City during the year is the Sculpture in the Hills and the Hill City Quilt Show.

Around 50 volunteers are needed for this event. Not all 50 people have to work together all at once. There are different shifts that can be taken.

Liz Carlson Jones, executive assistant for the Hill City Arts Council, said shifts are for three hours and can happen on both days of the Sculpture in the Hills.

The book sale that happens during the Sculpture in the Hills can take people away from the event because the people who volunteer at the book sale also volunteer at Sculpture in the Hills.

Volunteers at Sculpture in the Hills greet visitors, hand visitors information about the show, sit at booths in order to give artists a break, survey the visitors and check-in the artists in when they arrive.

For the quilt show about 75 volunteers are needed. Jones said that is a very volunteer intensive event to help hang the quilts and take them down at the end of the show. Volunteers also take admissions when they are there and tell people about the show.

Jones said there is a very dedicated core of people who volunteer in Hill City.

“While we do have a lot of people who volunteer each year we always need new people,” Jones said.

“Maybe get some younger people involved too.”

Jones’ daughter is a middle-schooler and volunteers as a greeter at Arts Council events.

Jones thinks there is more of a struggle to get volunteers now because a lot of volunteers all have been together for years helping out but they have started to move away or not able to do it any more for health reasons.

She said the people who volunteer are fantastic.

“They work hard, they do it cheerfully and they are the smiling faces that greet you and welcome you to the event,” Jones said.

There is a volunteer page on hillcityarts.org. They can also e-mail Liz at [email protected]

If it’s easier they can also visit the Hill City Arts Council office in the Old World Plaza.

“We can’t do it without the volunteers. They are so crucial to the success of the event,” Jones said.

Jones said that if people aren’t comfortable with handling money there are plenty of other jobs they could do.

An event that recently wrapped up, the Black Hills Film Festival, had about 45 volunteers this year. Not all of them were from Hill City as the festival locations are also in Spearfish, Rapid City and Hot Springs.

VanNess said this year mas more in the middle of the year for volunteering. There is usually between 30-50 volunteers that are at the festival.

“Mostly they volunteer because they like coming to the festival and if they volunteer at enough sessions they get a festival pass,” VanNess said.

“They really like that so they can go to the films.”

VanNess said if somebody comes to the festival and they really enjoy it then they might tell them to volunteer next year. On the Black Hills Film Festival website there is a link so people can get information on how to volunteer.

“It tells them what is required and they can see what they might be interested in,” VanNess said.

VanNess is also the sole manager of the Heart of the Hills Economic Development Corporation (EDC). That is another volunteer board in town. Members of the board are usually recruited.

VanNess said the EDC is in charge of growing the businesses in Hill City. Their main goal is to entice businesses to come to Hill City.

The EDC members come up with plans at meetings to grow the number of businesses in Hill City. They also give out loans to businesses that need funding to start of expand.

“It’s a pretty important function. They also help with tax incentives and those types of things,” VanNess said.