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Horizon Study Circles to start Feb. 25

Decreasing poverty through leadership and city improvements is the goal of the Horizons II program.

The City of Philip was chosen as a participant in the Horizons II project. Residents have been working with the program since the middle of last year.

Last Thursday evening, February 15, a few local residents gathered for a meal and meeting about the next step in the program. Some of those in attendance were unsure of what the program is about.

The program started in 1998 after the Northwest Area Foun-dation, (NWAF), revamped its mission and awarding of grant dollars. The foundation was established in 1934 by Louis Hill, son of James Hill, the founder of the Great Northern Railway. The railway served the states of South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Oregon. These then are the states that the foundation serves.

When the foundation revamp-ed its mission, they focused on working directly with communities by providing financial resources and technical assistance. These two areas were directed at increased ability to identify and develop local assets, expand economic opportunities, increase decision making and increase community know-how, and support to lead and implement poverty reduction. That is the goal of the Horizon project.

Two criteria must be met for a town to participate in the program: it must have a population under 5,000 and have a poverty rate over 10 percent.

The program started in 2003 and three western South Dakota towns were included in the program: Timber Lake, Isabel and Dupree. A look at the NWAF website's (www.nwfa.org) programs will bring up the towns of Timber Lake and Isabel. The towns discuss what they have accomplished through the program. Numerous towns in the eight-state region have listings on the site.

South Dakota State Univer-sity's Extension program is the NWAF's partner in the program. The Extension service aided the three South Dakota towns in their endeavor. They are also working with the Horizon II towns, of which Philip is participating. Dan Odekoven, Sturgis, is Philip's regional coordinator. He could not attend Thursday's meeting, so Carolyn Hendricks, Newell, filled in for him. She is the regional coordinator for five towns in northwestern South Dakota.

Hendricks stated most people think of poverty in dollars and cents, which it is, but it is also more than that. She said it involves the community coming together through leadership to create a better living for the residents and to bring more jobs, more services, and overall better living to the community.

Hendricks outlined the program for those in attendance. She noted that Philip had started the five step program last fall when they held a Spotlight meeting. The next step is the Study Circles which will start next week. In these circles residents look at the community's assets and liabilities and choose three areas they would like to see improved. Part of this is deciding what ways poverty could be reduced in the community and ways to increase leadership in the community. Each Study Circle will have two facilitators to help the group. The groups will meet for five consecutive weeks for approximately one hour each time.

Study Circles are set for Sundays, beginning February 25, 6:00 p.m. at the Bad River Senior Citizen's Center with facilitators Mary Burnett and Terry Holman; Tuesdays, beginning February 27, 6:30 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce Office with facilitators Jim Kanable and Del Bartels; and Fridays, beginning March 1, 12:00 noon at the hopsital's conference room with Kent Olson and Adele Gelvin as facilitators.

To be part of a Study Circle individuals can contact one of the facilitators or Jennifer Henri or they may show up at the meeting time on the day they wish to particpate.

The third step is Leadership-Plenty. Three residents receive training that will give them skills to lead people in Philip. Those three then train 25 individuals to work in the community. Volun-teers are still needed for these positions.

Community Visioning involves 15 percent of the community coming together to teach the community about what the Study Circles and LeadershipPlenty have brought forth.

Community Coaching and Action is the fifth step and is where the implementation or acting on the ideas takes place. Hendricks noted, as examples, that Dupree cleaned up the town and brought four businesses to the community. Isabel brought in a day care center, renovated a local cafe and a motel. Timber Lake was able to bring Broadband Internet services to residents in the town and a seven mile radius around Timber Lake.

Henderson added that each community that utilizes the program is available for grant dollars. Typically this is $2,000 to $10,000, she said.

She cautioned the attendees that the program is not designed to give grant dollars to the communities, but to give them the leadership and opportunities to find those grant dollars for the community. An example of this, she noted, is Timber Lake, Isabel and Dupree joining forces to hire an economic development coordinator. The three towns applied for, and received, a $138,000 grant from the Bush Foundation. These grant dollars will be used to hire a coordinator and to fund the office.

In South Dakota, 25 communites have been selected to participate in the Horizons II program. These towns range in population from 157 to 4,129 and a poverty rate of 10.8 percent to 25.1 percent.

Eleven West River towns are participating in the program. They include Martin with a population of 1,106 and a poverty rate of 24.9 percent; Deadwood, 1,280, 10.8 percent; Whitewood, 844, 17.8 percent; Newell, 646, 13.7 percent; Bison 373, 12.6 percent; Murdo, 612, 12.1 percent; Hot Springs, 4,129, 14.8 percent; Buffalo Gap, 164, 18.7 percent; Faith 489, 10.8 percent; Presho, 588, 11.2 percent; and Philip 885, 11.0 percent.