HURON – Giving an hour of their day to read to elementary school children in the summer session is one way volunteers from Premier Bankcard can strengthen their community, employee Chandra Berge-Anderson said during a short break in Thursday’s Day of Action in Huron.
“Premier really places a strong emphasis on volunteering and involving ourselves in the community,” she said.
“We really like to help participate in building a stronger community, and giving our time is part of that,” Berge-Anderson said.
The United Way Heartland Region Day of Action brought community volunteers together with 425 kids for a time of education, entertainment and interaction.
Denny Mahowald and Steve Besch performed musical selections for audiences in the Huron Middle School music room, while outside the building members of the Miller Flight of the Civil Air Patrol explained the purpose of their organization and demonstrated how to fly a drone.
“We are a nonprofit auxiliary of the Air Force,” said 1st Lt. Richard Rezac. Joining him were cadets in the Civil Air Patrol.
“We will do what no other organization does,” he said. “We allow young people to participate in a real world mission.”
After 9-year-old Serenity Dennard was reported missing from the Black Hills Children’s Home in early February, CAP cadets from Miller were among a search team. Cadets walked the hills along with adults. Unfortunately, the young girl has still not been found.
“It’s real life in a way that no other organization gives them an opportunity to do,” Rezac said.
Ninety percent of the volunteers who spent an hour reading to the kids in three shifts were Premier Bankcard employees, said Rhonda Kludt, the retiring executive director of UNHR.
“We had an amazing turnout of people today,” said Berge-Anderson.
Premier employees have volunteered for previous Day of Action and Day of Caring events as a way for them to get involved in the Huron community, she said.
Six days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Civil Air Patrol was established. Initially, members conducted civil defense missions, like coastal patrols of the eastern seaboard, looking for German submarines, Rezac said.
“We would tow targets for fighters that were training, all those kinds of things that the government needed pilots for, but didn’t want to use military pilots,” he said.
Since then, the CAP has evolved into three primary missions: emergency services, disaster relief and homeland security.
The CAP conducts a vast majority of the ground and air search and rescue missions in the continental United States. It flies over flooded areas to photograph the damage and CAP aircraft play tag with F16 pilots who are practicing tracking low and slow aircraft.
Members are all volunteers, and unpaid. “Everything that we do in doing our job is basically out of pocket,” Rezac said. “You have to have a desire to do it.”
As an adult member, he said he is now giving back to the CAP for all it did for him when he was a cadet in Pierre. Now, his son and other cadets are reaping the benefits of membership.
Rezac said the Air Force is offering a program where it will pay the flight school expenses of 50 cadets per year in the country, a monetary value in the thousands of dollars and a guarantee that successful candidates will go on to have a high-paying career.
In turn, the Air Force is also looking down the road to fulfill a need.
“There is a critical pilot shortage nationwide,” Rezac said. “Whether it’s civilian, military, fixed wing, rotary wing, it doesn’t matter, we need pilots, period, for everything. It’s that simple.”
The value and life-long pleasure of reading and the joy of music were shared with hundreds of Huron kids on Thursday.
And, just maybe, there was a future pilot or two in the bunch as well.