Five South Dakotans named 2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees

Lura Roti
For South Dakota Farmers Union

Each year, SDFU recognizes individuals who give back to their communities with the Rural Dakota Pride Award. To meet the 2019 honorees, attend the Rural Dakota Pride Ceremony held at 10:30 a.m., Aug. 31, during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair on the Freedom Stage.

Read on to learn more about this year’s honorees.

2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honoree Angie Mueller of Ethan.

Angie Mueller, Ethan

Empowering girls through running and faith-based principles, Angie Mueller, 40, and her friend, Angie Klock, started the Be{YOU}tiful Strides Running Club in 2015 in Ethan for girls third grade thru sixth grade.

“We wanted to help girls realize that with a little work, encouragement, practice and belief in self, they could do something big,” explains Mueller, who has two daughters, Avery and Sadie and a son, Blake.

The “something big” was train to run a 5K. Beginning when school starts, the Running Club meets at the city park before school two mornings a week. During stretches, Klock leads a character-building, faith-based object lesson and shares the verse for the week, like Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine.” Then, they begin run walk intervals together, as Christian tunes play. When their 30 minutes of exercise is complete, the girls together with their teen and adult running mentors walk to school.

“We knew that the only way we could accomplish all our goals was to also focus on Bible truths. We needed God involved too,” says Mueller, who makes fun prizes that help to reinforce the verse to give each girl who memorizes the weekly verse.

To date, 40 girls and five women coaches are involved in Be{YOU}tiful Strides Running Club. Each October, the Running Club ends their season by hosting a Sparkle Run where they put their training to the test and raise money for a cause, like NHim Orphanages and a community member in need.

As a stay-at-home mom who also works part-time, Mueller says she makes time for Running Club and other volunteer activities like teaching Sunday School and organizing Vacation Bible School for her church because they provide opportunities for her to not only give back to her community, but remain engaged in the lives of her children.

“I wanted to coach my daughters and encourage them to be physically fit. Running Club helps reinforce healthy living and character skills that they can use the rest of their lives,” Mueller says.

To learn more about Running Club, follow them on Facebook, Be{YOU}tiful Strides Runners. And, to learn more about how SDFU supports family farmers, ranchers and rural communities, visit

2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honoree Jim Lane of Groton.

Jim Lane, Groton

When Jim Lane hears his peers make negative comments about “kids these days.” He is quick to disagree.

“I get to work with kids who put an incredible amount of work into their projects. Their work ethic, fortitude and personal drive are why I like volunteering as the robotics coach,” Jim explains, about the Groton High School students who make up the robotics team he has coached since 2011.

Robotics is a unique extra-curricular activity where teens are given the rules of a game, and then expected to build and program a robot to play that game, competing against another robot built by an opposing team. Governed by an international organization, Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, the youth compete on the state level to qualify for regional, national and international competitions.

As the coach, Jim sees his role as practice organizer, supply provider, provider of transportation and teaching youth problem solving skills. “I don’t tell them anything. Robotics is not like basketball or football where the coach tells kids how to play the game,” he says, explaining that when the teens ask him questions, he asks them more questions. “Robotics teaches them how to problem solve by helping them think through issues. All their lives, they will have to solve problems. No matter what they do or where they go, there will be a problem. Whether it is a mechanical problem or a people problem.”

To emphasize his point further, Jim shares a story about a time when the Groton team qualified for a nation competition with more than 350 teams. “Our team was doing very well and close to the top at the end of the first day of matches. Then, their robot broke in last seconds of competition.”

The teens painstakingly took their robot apart, spending hours testing the parts to locate the problem. By 10 p.m. when the facility closed for the night, they were forced to leave their robot, which they still needed to finish putting back together. The next morning, they arrived early to finish putting the robot back together.

The Groton team ended up placing third overall in their division. “They won because they spent the time working on their robot, finding the problem and fixing it.”

Problem solving is something Jim enjoys. It’s a skill that comes in handy. He is a small business owner of a handyman business, Jim of All Trades. “I enjoy projects and I have a curious mind. The things I read for pleasure are Discovery Magazine and National Geographic.”

Jim first got involved in coaching robotics when his son, Logan, was in high school. Logan had been taking a robotics unit and the teacher learned of a competition in Sioux Falls. Logan and some of his friends were interested in participating, but they needed a parent to provide transportation. When the teacher asked Jim, he said, “yes.”

Then, Jim organized some practices…he was hooked. Even after Logan graduated, Jim is still involved.

“I like watching kids take ownership of their robot and the work it takes,” Jim says.

Along with the opportunity to mentor local youth, Jim appreciates the opportunity to give back to the community he’s called home since 1976. “I like the fact it’s a small town and, when my kids were young and running around, people knew who they were and where they belonged. If they got into trouble, people know where to come.”

Jim has five grown children, Jamie Forrest, CJ, Lincoln, Logan and Marshall. In addition to robotics, Jim and his wife, Melodee, volunteer their time in other areas of the community as well. A few years ago, couple dedicated two years to organizing efforts to fundraise and build a warming house for the community ice rink.

To learn more about the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, visit

2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honoree Rich Bakeberg of Frederick.

Rich Bakeberg, Frederick

When the Cenex station in Frederick closed, the closest fueling option was 12 miles away in Ellendale, N.D. So, members of the Frederick Development Corporation began searching for other options.

The plan they finally went with was a creative one. The Development Corporation built a self-service fuel station and lease the facility to Agtegra. The local cooperative takes care of everything else.

“After going without a local gas station for quite a while, this was a big success for us and our community,” explains Rich Bakeberg, volunteer chair of the Development Corporation and a 2019 recipient of South Dakota Farmers Union Rural Dakota Pride honor.

A longtime resident of Frederick, Rich donates his time to projects that help make Frederick a community welcoming to young families. Like he and his wife, Gayle, were when they moved to town to raise their family 44 years ago.

“Our focus is to keep Frederick thriving and growing – any opportunities we can create to get new families to the community we will work to do,” explains Rich, who retired four years ago, and then went back to work part-time when Frederick needed a part-time Maintenance manager.

For more than four decades he has served as a volunteer firefighter and spent 25 years with the volunteer ambulance service. For years he kept score for high school basketball games, and when the school needed a bus driver for away games, Rich passed the test so he could do the job.

“I figured, I have three sons and this way I get to watch every game courtside. I was blessed, we got to watch eight Class B State Tournaments while I was volunteer score keeper,” Rich, a veteran, shares. “Frederick is a good place to live and it was a good place to raise my family, and our school system is terrific. We have smaller class size, so students don’t get lost in the crowd.”

In fact, the Frederick Area School has such a good reputation, students from 30 miles away in Aberdeen choose to open enroll. To make it an easy decision for families, the school funds a bus to pick up and drop off students.

“We hope that some of the students’ families will be impressed enough with Frederick that they want to move here,” he says.

In fact, some student’s families have inquired about moving to Frederick, but housing availability was an obstacle. Fortunately, increasing housing options is another project the Development Corporation has undertaken since Rich joined the board more than two decades ago. Currently the organization manages eight apartments, and this summer they will fund the building of a four-bedroom home.

“I get to work with a lot of great people,” Bakeberg explains. “In small towns, we all need to volunteer and help out wherever we can. For me, Frederick is my number one priority.”

2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honoree Jeannie Hofer of Huron.

Jeannie Hofer, Huron

When Jeannie Hofer explains her work as a volunteer with Manolis Family Safe Center she says, “It’s about accepting and helping and extending a hand and a heart.”

Extending a hand and opening her heart to those in need is second nature for Jeannie, 69, who is grateful an aunt and uncle were there for her, taking her in and raising her when she and her siblings were left without a home due to domestic violence.

The Manolis Family Safe Center is a volunteer organization for victims of domestic abuse and their children. Along with providing victims with a safe place to live, Jeannie and other volunteers take turns buying groceries, cleaning and doing home maintenance, driving family members to counseling and doctor appointments and anything else necessary to “help them feel empowered and in control of their own life,” Jeannie explains. “We give them a new avenue to follow so they don’t have to fall back into the same domestic situation. We can give them guidance to help them make better choices.”

Although she does provide support services to adult victims, Jeannie says her focus is typically the children. “I was one myself. When it comes to domestic violence, children don’t have a choice. Parents do. The children need someone there for them,” Jeannie says. “I encourage them and let them know this is not their fault, and they don’t need to let this experience come between them and their future.”

Even before volunteering for the domestic abuse shelter, Jeannie, a mom to three now grown children, Melissa, Jennifer and Mike, says she and her husband, Wayne, have always had an open-door policy when it came to helping kids. Over the years the couple has opened their home up to several children who needed support or a place to stay.

“I was blessed as a child to have an aunt and uncle who took care of me, so I’ve always wanted to do the same,” she says.

In addition to the Manolis Family Safe Center, Jeannie, who is a small business owner, also volunteers with Coats for Kids, Salvation Army and is an active member of Bethesda Church.

“Huron is where I live. I want to pay back to my community. We have excellent supporters in Huron. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” she says.

Franklin Olson, Pierpont

When Franklin Olson commits to something, he follows through. As a little boy he decided he would farm. As a young man, he expanded his dream, determining to farm 1,000 acres – even though he and his wife, JoAnne had to start from scratch.

Through hard work and tenacity, they expanded and eventually Franklin was farming 1,000 acres and milking a herd of milk cows.

For nearly 65 years, Franklin applied the same dedication to the many organizations he has served. He was only 18 when Farmers Union Independence Local 923 asked him to serve as their Secretary/Treasurer and he said “yes,” and never missed a meeting until he left town for two years to serve in the Army. When he returned, he resumed his role, and went on to serve several terms as Day County Farmers Union President. He served several years on the Brown/Day/Marshall Rural Water System and as well as the State Rural Water Board, helping guide them through several phases of development; served on the board of directors for FSA board as well as the board of the Strand Kjorsvig Living Center and served on the Farmers Union Oil Company board of directors for 35 years – missing only two meetings. Franklin recently completed six years of service, representing District 3 on the South Dakota Farmers Union State Board of Directors.

“It’s always easy to work hard for something you thoroughly believe in,” Franklin says. “I’m glad that a lot of the things I was involved in turned out to be good and successful.”

A strong advocate for Farmers Union and cooperatives, Franklin says both have played a vital role in supporting South Dakota’s farmers. “If we didn’t have cooperatives in our country right now, farmers would not have a local place to do business. Farmers Union is the number one farm organization. We have always fought for family farmers, fair prices and education programs,” he said. “Like agriculture, our cooperative has evolved quite a bit. I have watched it grow from a small cooperative to merge with a cooperative in a neighboring community to better serve farmers throughout our region.”

Because Franklin began serving at such a young age, he had to fit meetings and service activities into his already busy farm and dairy schedule. “Some mornings I got up early, and some nights I worked late. JoAnne was always a great support,” says Franklin, noting that his typical workday began at 5 a.m. since they milked the cows at 6. “People who milk cows do things on time.”

2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honoree Franklin Olson of Pierpont.