To keep itself alive, Herreid taps local, federal funding

Shannon Marvel
smarvel@aberdeennews.com

HERREID — If there’s a small town that knows how to take advantage of local and federal funding opportunities, it’s Herreid.

That’s how the town — population 438, per the last census — has given life to new housing and reinvigorated its economy.

Take Jason and Kabrina Haar and their nine children, who once lived in a crowded mobile home. With help from community member Dick Werner, they recently moved into a Governor’s House in Herreid.

Now the family of 11 has enough room for everyone.

Werner said that when he first heard that the Haar family had plans to move away from Herreid, he went straight over to talk to them at their home. When he got there, he said there were kids sleeping on the floor, and he knew he had to help them out.

Werner wanted no credit for his role in getting the family into its own home. Instead, he invited representatives from all the entities that made it possible to a tour of Herreid. It included highlighting work the community has done with help from various funding sources.

In the Haars’ case, the family qualified for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development District loan through Homes Are Possible, Inc. The six-bedroom, two-bathroom Governor’s House was also funded via grants from Grow South Dakota and the Herreid Area Housing Development Authority. In all, grant awards totaled $42,500 for the family.

South Dakota’s Governor’s House Program was founded in 1996. It provides reasonably sized, affordable homes to income-qualified residents, according to its website. More than 2,000 Governor’s Homes have been sold across the state.

All the help made all the difference to Kabrina Haar, whose family was looking at moving to Selby after her husband switched jobs.

“The housing opportunity in Herreid was almost zero. We were living at the place my husband was working. When he switched back to his previous job, we were going to be without a house. So we found a home in Selby that was a five-bedroom,” she said. “We didn’t want to bounce our children around. When we were given the opportunity to stay in Herreid, that meant the world to us.”

With Werner’s help, the family was able to secure the proper funding so it didn’t have to move.

“A family of 11 such as us, we didn’t have any savings. Without these grants, we would not have had a large enough downpayment for owning a home. That would’ve never had been a possibility,” Haar said. “In the middle of that, we ended up having a premature baby. I had no health insurance, so we had that hassle. A lot of things happened in that time,” she said.

“It is important for people who keeping funding these programs to keep them available to families like us. The gratefulness we have to share for these funds, it’s so important to keep them going,” Haar said.

During the tour of town, Werner showcased different homes filled with new residents who will call the Herreid home for the long term. He also pointed out various lots purchased by the Herreid Area Housing Development Authority that will be used for future homes. Without the funding provided by HAPI and the USDA, Werner said Herreid would be in trouble. Instead, he hopes to continue the growth by showing what the funding has done for the small community.

Aberdeen-based HAPI was founded in 1999. Like the Governor’s House Program, it provides affordable housing for income-qualified residents.

No longer a food desert

For six months, the town of Herreid was considered a “food desert,” as defined by the USDA, Werner said. During that period, the town lost it’s only grocery store, he said.

But a USDA Rural Development Rural Energy for America Program grant helped change that. With the $20,000, Daniel Martin, owner of Pope’s Grocery Store in Herreid, was able to make efficiency improvements that will save about $13,277 in energy costs per year, Werner said.

In June, the Herreid Economic Development Corp. received a USDA Rural Development Rural Business Development grant for $90,000 to help establish a small business incubator “by way of purchasing an existing Main Street business building that houses the local grocery business,” Werner said.

The grocery store is currently transitioning ownership to Kayla Huber.

She was busy at the store’s counter on July 26 when she told the story of how she went from nurse to grocery store owner.

“I had a little push from the entire community because I was a stay-at-home mom for the last three years, and I’m a nurse. I was coming back here with the intentions of going back to work because I had family around to help with day care,” Huber said.

“Then the whole community got after me telling me, ‘Oh you’d be so good in there’. I like baking and cooking, so they wanted the bakery and the deli,” she said.

“Honestly, what persuaded me was I couldn’t see it close,” Huber said, recounting what it was like to go without a grocery store for the last six months. “The little old ladies were freezing milk and cream because they’d go somewhere to get it and they’d freeze it. It was right around Christmas. They would bus people to other communities so they could shop.”