Elizabeth Smart joins Abbott House 80th Anniversary Celebration

Elizabeth Smart will share her story of hope and healing during the Abbott House 80th Anniversary Celebration in Rapid City on September 20 and in Mitchell on September 21.  Smart will inspire others during her presentation at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Rapid City on Friday, September 20th, and in Mitchell at the Performing Arts Center Saturday, September 21st. General admission tickets are $35.00, $40 at the door.  VIP tickets in Rapid City are $100 and VIP tickets in Mitchell are $75. All VIP tickets include a signed copy of one of Smart’s books, front row seats, appetizers and an opportunity to meet Elizabeth.  There are a limited number of VIP tickets.

6:00 pm                   VIP reception

6:00 pm                Doors open to the public

7:00 pm              80th Anniversary Celebration

VIP tickets can be purchased online at www.abbotthouse.org, at the Abbott House and from Abbott House board members.  

All proceeds benefit the Abbott House children.

For tickets, CLICK HERE


Black Hills FCU Makes Donation to Abbott House

RAPID CITY, S.D., June 10, 2019 – Black Hills Federal Credit Union is pleased to announce they recently presented a $25,000 donation to Abbott House in support of their Building Bridges Capital Campaign. The campaign seeks to expand foster family services in Rapid City through the building of two additional foster homes.

“Abbott House serves an important role as a safe, caring place where displaced children in our community can receive the support and encouragement they need,” said Roger Heacock, president and CEO of Black Hills Federal Credit Union. “We’re grateful for the crucial work this organization does every day to improve the lives of youth in our community.”

BHFCU’s gift to the campaign will aid in the construction of two new foster homes, which will provide much-needed care and assistance to Black Hills-area children and families. Upon completion, each home will have six bedrooms for youth ages 10 to 17 and two independent living apartments for those 18 years and older, who have recently aged out of the foster care program.

The organization plans to break ground on the new foster family homes, which will be located near the Elk Vale area in East Rapid City, this summer.

A private charity, Abbott House provides a variety of residential treatment services to youth and families in the Rapid City area, including intensive treatment, foster care and independent living services. The organization currently operates two other therapeutic foster homes in the Black Hills.

About Black Hills Federal Credit Union

Established in Rapid City in 1941, Black Hills Federal Credit Union is a member-owned, not-for-profit, financial cooperative serving more than 72,000 members. The community-chartered credit union has locations in Rapid City, Custer, Eagle Butte, Hot Springs, Pierre, Sioux Falls, Spearfish, Sturgis, and Wall, South Dakota. For more information, visit bhfcu.com.


Abbott House Launching Campaign for Foster Homes in Rapid City

Rapid City, S.D. –  Abbott House is expanding therapeutic foster homes in Rapid City and fundraising for the two homes has begun. A total of $3 million is needed to build the homes that will include transitional supported apartments for young adults ages 18-23 who are aging out of foster care.

            Eric Klooz, Executive Director of Abbott House, said the community has been very supportive.   “We began talking to people in Rapid City a little more than a year ago, and everyone recognizes there is a major need for foster care in the area,” Klooz said. “The city and state are both putting matching dollars towards this project because they believe in our youth and our program.”

James Scull and Hani Shafai will host a reception on Wednesday, May 15 to announce the official start of the multi-million dollar campaign. The event will include announcement of matching gifts and a check presentation from the South Dakota Community Foundation.      

“I am excited to be a part of this campaign and work,” Scull said. “Our children need to know they are valued and supported in this community.”

Abbott House will build two additional therapeutic foster family homes in Rapid City. Each home will have six bedrooms with one designated to serve boys ages 10 to 17 and another designated for girls ages 10 to 17. These homes will provide expanded “close to home” foster care to children and to their families in the Black Hills region. In addition, each home will include independent living apartments for supported living environments for those youth 18 years and older. Two 2-bedroom apartments will be made available to females; two 2-bedroom apartments will be for males.

Abbott House is celebrating their 80th anniversary this year. Abbott House provides residential treatment services for girls ages seven to seventeen 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 serve approximately 45 foster youth annually.

The event is by invite only and reservations are required.  Please call 996-2486 and ask for Jamie to make a reservation.  For more information about Abbott House, please contact Eric Klooz or Virginia Wishard Lambert at (605) 996-2486.

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Abbott House is a private charity that provides residential treatment services to youth between the age of 7 and 23 years old. The agency provides intensive treatment, foster care and independent living services in Mitchell and Rapid City, South Dakota.  The Abbott House is truly dedicated to providing premier services for youth and families.

 Abbott House / 909 Court Merrill / Mitchell, S.D. / 57301-0700 / (605) 996-2486 / www.abbotthouse.org


Abbott House Celebrates Foster Care Awareness Month by Honoring Outstanding Foster Parents

MITCHELL, S.D.   – May is Foster Care Awareness Month.   Every child deserves a home and a family.  That is one of the reasons Abbott House celebrates Foster Care Awareness month.  Strong families are South Dakota’s foundation and our future. 

To celebrate this year Abbott House will recognize outstanding foster parents with a Foster Parent Champion Award.  Nominations will be accepted through May 31, 2019.  Announcement of the winners will be made at the 80th Anniversary events in September in Mitchell and Rapid City.

“Give foster parents one of the best ‘thank you’s’ they can receive by nominating them to be a Foster Parent Champion Award winner,” Eric Klooz, Abbott House executive director, said.  “Foster families give many South Dakota children the opportunity their dreams of having a family come true.”

In 2017, more than 690,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care according to Children’s Rights.  The average age of a child in foster care is more than 8 years old, and there are slightly more boys than girls.

Typically children and youth enter foster care because they have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents or guardians.  In other ways, foster care children are the same as all other children; they are learning and growing; they like to hang out with their family and friends and they need guidance.

In South Dakota there were 1,603 children in foster care in 2017 according to the Annie E Casey Foundation.  Of those children 83% of them were living in families instead of in a group home or treatment facility.  That is an increase of 4% over 2007.  The majority of these children (50%) live with families to whom they are not related, while 23% of them live with a relative.  Research shows that placing children with relatives or close friends when they cannot live with their own families helps minimize the trauma of removal, maintaining vital connections and often keeping siblings groups together. 

In South Dakota the majority of children enter foster care due to neglect, parental substance abuse and/or incarceration and physical abuse, Klooz said.  “Because of these entry reasons, most or our children are searching for safety, security and someone who will accept them and love them for who they are.  That is why the Bridges by Abbott House Therapeutic Foster Homes are so successful.”


Abbott House has three Bridges Therapeutic Foster Homes in Mitchell, SD and two in Rapid City, SD.  Abbott House is also expanding its therapeutic foster care options in the Black Hills area during 2019.  Within South Dakota there are many different types of foster parent programs.  If you need a Foster Parent Champion Award nomination or have any interest in becoming a foster parent, please contact Abbott House at tysons@abbotthousesd.org or 605-996-2486.  Together we can change the future of our children.


Celebrating Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  As a part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month blue ribbons will be placed on trees at the Abbott House encouraging individuals and organizations to play a role in making South Dakota a better place for children and families. Abbott House will also participate in various child abuse awareness activities in the Rapid City area.

Children thrive when they have nurturing, supportive relationships and interactions with the adults in their lives.  Like the process of serve and return in a game of tennis, children of all ages naturally reach out to the adults in their lives.  When those adults respond in a caring, nurturing and supportive way, children thrive.

In 2016, there were 1,246 victims of abuse or neglect in South Dakota, a rate of 5.8 per 1,000 children according to the Child Welfare League of America.  This is an increase of 16.1% over 2015 numbers.  Of these children, 89.6% were neglected, 11.2% were physically abused, and 4.5% were sexually abused.  Four children died from abuse or neglect reported in South Dakota in 2016.

When children are abused or neglected they are in a constant state of stress.  In the absence of supportive relationships to help buffer the stress, they can have a toxic stress reaction.  When this happens, harmful chemicals flood the child’s brain and body causing damage to the developing brain architecture, disrupting normal child development.  This leaves children vulnerable, causing many of them to adopt risky social and health behaviors, such as smoking, sexual promiscuity at an early age, and illegal drug and alcohol use, among others. These risky behaviors lead to poor physical, emotional, and mental health and even early death.

“Abbott House is using blue ribbons, the symbol of Child Abuse Prevention, to bring attention to the responsibility each of us has to the children in our community and our state,” Eric Klooz, Director of the Abbott House said.  “Everyone has a role to play in preventing child abuse and supporting families.”

There must be a continuum of services available in communities to ensure all children have the opportunity to grow into contributing citizens. When communities are successful in assuring that children have the environments and experiences necessary for their healthy development, the next generation responds to that effort with a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship, Klooz said.

When parents have the knowledge, skills, resources, and social support they need they are better able to provide the safe, stable, nurturing environments their children need to thrive. This knowledge helps stop abuse and neglect before it occurs. 

“We hope this effort will remind everyone that supporting our children is essential to our future and to their future,” Klooz said.


Children Helping Children During the Holidays

Mitchell, SD — Ken Ellingwood from Mobile, Alabama, is teaching Abbott House youth important life lessons while also supporting Abbott House programs.  Ellingwood gives $100 to every Abbott House child for Christmas with one stipulation – that every child give a portion of their Christmas gift to someone else in need.

Ellingwood was introduced to Abbott House through a friend more than 10 years ago while he was hunting in the area.  He was impressed with the services the Abbott House provided and wanted to help out.  When he suggested the concept of giving to the girls so they can give something back – passing on the gift of giving, everyone agreed it would be a great idea.

And so it began.  Every year Ellingwood provides $100 for every child in Abbott House care.  The Abbott House children are notified of this Christmas gift and provided with a list of local and regional charities that need support this time of year.

“This is one of the many heartwarming and humbling activities we do during the Christmas season,” Eric Klooz, executive director of the Abbott House said.  “Every year we will have three or four children who arrived at the Abbott House with only the clothing on their backs who give their entire $100 gift to a food pantry or a women’s shelter that helped them and their family out in the past.”

This year Abbott House children selected three causes that would benefit from their generosity —  CORNERSTONE RESCUE MISSION ($1,295) in Rapid City, SD, Heifer International ($835) and Seeds of Change ($1,206), based in South Dakota, but serving people throughout the world. 

The CORNERSTONE RESCUE MISSION serves the physical and spiritual needs of more than 500 homeless people every day in the Rapid City area.  More than 40% of all the children at the Abbott House come from western South Dakota, Eric Klooz, Abbott House executive director, said.  Some of the children have used the services of the CORNERSTONE RESCUE MISSION in the past.

               Seeds of Change is a non-profit organization that supports several international missions.  One of these is called Mission Hope – a program created to nourish the souls, minds and bodies of some of Kenya’s brightest, but most vulnerable students by supporting their educational needs in a safe environment.  Seeds of Change started through the passion of the Jeff and Tammie Broin family – Jeff Broin is the founder and CEO of POET — and the non-profit organization was a natural extension of a company that already cares about the environment and improving livelihoods.  The $1,206 gift the Abbott House girls provided will support quality education to vulnerable Kenyan girls.  The Abbott House children’s gift will give two girls education, clothing, food and shelter for a full year!

 The Abbott House children’s donation to Heifer International provided a llama, a pig, a sheep, three trios of rabbits, 4 bunches of bees, two flocks of chickens and two groups each of ducks and geese as well as a share of a water buffalo to people in need.  Heifer International is a charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities.  Heifer International gives families various animals to raise and the training they need to care for that animal.  Then the family will extend the impact of the original gift by passing on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family.  

 “Thanks to Ken, Abbott House children are able to brighten their own Christmas and share their blessings with others,” Klooz said.  “Children helping children, what could be better than that at Christmas time.”


Great Western Bank Provides Making Life Great Grants to Boost Community Well-Being

SIOUX FALLS, SD – December 11, 2018 – Great Western Bank has announced additional organizations across South Dakota to receive funding under its Making Life Great grants program.  These five non-profit organizations will receive grant money to help with a variety of challenges including financial education, affordable housing, workforce development and economic stability.

“It is our privilege to support the many worthwhile efforts in our communities,” said President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Bass.  “Our goal with community funding is to cultivate lasting relationships and to give back to our communities in ways that directly align with our mission to Make Life Great.”

Major recipients include:

  • Abbott House to provide housing for homeless youth in Rapid City, SD.
  • Boys and Girls Club of the Sioux Empire to assist with programming and financial literacy efforts in Sioux Falls, SD.
  • Feeding South Dakota to help feed those in need in the Rapid City, SD area.
  • Black Hills Habitat for Humanity to provide affordable housing for a family in need in the Rapid City, SD market.
  • Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sioux Falls to provide building materials for affordable housing in Sioux Falls, SD.

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In fiscal year 2018, Great Western Bank donated more than $2 million in total donations and sponsorships to community groups across its nine-state footprint.  To learn more about Great Western Bank’s commitment to corporate responsibility, visit our website at https://www.greatwesternbank.com/about-us/community/.

About Great Western Bank

Great Western Bank is a full-service regional bank focused on relationship-based business and agribusiness banking. Great Western Bank services its customers through more than 170 branches in nine states: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Great Western Bank offers small and mid-sized businesses a focused suite of financial products and a range of deposit and loan products to retail customers through several channels, including the branch network, online banking system, mobile banking applications and customer care centers. Great Western Bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Great Western Bancorp, Inc. (NYSE: GWB).  To learn more visit www.greatwesternbank.com.


Abbott House Promotes Safety and Security

PIERRE –The South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF) presented a $20,000 South Dakota Fund grant to Abbott House in Mitchell.  Funds will provide partial support to upgrade their existing security system.

“When children come to Abbott House it is often the first time in their life they have been able to feel safe, so having a quality security system is really important,” Eric Klooz, Abbott House executive director said.   “This new system includes internal and external cameras, a security scanning system and 24-hour access to video playback if needed.  This type of security is essential for our work.”

Abbott House is home to girls’ ages 7 through 17 most of whom have suffered severe abuse, neglect and trauma in their young lives. It is imperative that these girls feel safe and secure in their surroundings as they start their healing process. The purpose of the security system is not to keep children inside the facility but rather serves as reassurance to the children and youth residing there that outsiders cannot enter the building at any given time.

“The South Dakota Community Foundation is proud to partner with Abbott House as they work to ensure the safety and security of their facility”, said Ginger Niemann, SDCF Senior Program Officer. “We commend them on providing a safe environment where girls have time to process all their life experiences.”

The South Dakota Fund is an unrestricted fund that makes grants in support of culture, economic development, education, health and human services. The SDCF awards grants throughout the year to nonprofits that meet vital and diverse needs across the state. Interested applicants can learn more by visiting https://sdcommunityfoundation.org/for-nonprofits/sd-fund-grants/

About our donors

The SDCF distributed more than $13.5 million in grants in 2017 which made a tremendous difference in communities statewide. This would not have been possible without the generosity of our donors. If you have a specific cause you would like to support or would prefer to give for the general good of our state, please visit https://sdcommunityfoundation.org/for-donors/ to learn more or give us a call at (605) 224-1025.


Abbott House recognizes Children’s Champions Award Recipients

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 Winners

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 program.

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 these kids”

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 experienced.

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.

Special recognitions

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 (605) 996-2486.


2017 Legacy Motorcycle Winner Announced

Congratulations to Michael Sczepkowski of Hale, MI. He is the winner of the 2015 Indian Scout customized by the Abbott House girls. Thank you to Michael and to everyone who supported the Abbott House by purchasing a chance at the bike! Your donation makes a big difference in the lives of the children at Abbott House!