Candy Hanson, president of Sioux Falls Thrive, calls its Strategy Council a “brain trust”. Pictured back row, L-R are Council members: Stephanie Monroe, Kari Benz, Andy Patterson, Doug Morrison, Mike Lynch, Daren Ketcham, Traci Jensen, and Cindy Dannenbring. Front row L-R: Pam Homan, Betty Oldenkamp, Alicia Collura, (Alternate), Janet Kittams-Lalley, Christina Riss, and Kris Graham. Not pictured: Members, Jill Franken and Kristi Kranz. Alternates, Dennis Hoffman, Brian Maher, Brent O’Neil, and Jay Powell.

Christina Riss, a Community Impact Director for Sioux Empire United Way, is happy to be among the first 15 members of Thrive’s Strategy Council.

The Council is a special committee of Sioux Falls Thrive. Its purpose is to assist in the advancement of Thrive’s mission by advising Thrive’s governing board on matters of strategic direction and policy.

“Our goal is to really assess the resources available in the community, identify challenges preventing children from reaching their potential, and recommend the priority areas that Thrive should focus on for action,” Riss said. “It’s really exiting to part of an effort that is focused on increasing the effectiveness and efficiencies of services.”

Council members represent community groups that provide significant sources of funding or services designed to ensure the welfare of children and families who stand in need ─ the very people Thrive’s cradle to career initiative aims to help. Members are appointed annually to a one-year term of office.

“We couldn’t do our work without the Council ─ it’s our brain trust,” Candy Hanson, president of Thrive said. “Their professional positions make them exceptionally knowledgeable about needs and existing services. And, they’re sensitive to the investments their organizations are making to improve our quality of life.”

In addition to Riss, members of the Strategy Council are: Kari Benz, Minnehaha County Human Services; Cindy Dannenbring, Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership; Jill Franken, SF Health Department; Kris Graham, Southeastern Behavioral Healthcare; Pam Homan, Augustana Research Institute; Traci Jensen, SF School District; Daren Ketcham, SF Community Development; Janet Kittams-Lalley, Helpline Center; Kristi Kranz, United Way; Mike Lynch, Forward Sioux Falls; Stephanie Monroe, VOA, Dakotas; Doug Morrison, SF School District; Betty Oldenkamp, LSS of South Dakota; and Andy Patterson, Community Foundation. Alternates are Alicia Collura, SF Health Department; Dennis Hoffman, VOA, Dakotas, Brian Maher, SF School District; Brent O’Neil, SF Community Development; and Jay Powell, United Way.

The Council meets once a month, Riss said, and work advances quickly.

At its first two meetings, the Council developed selection criteria and an application for membership on Thrive’s first action team, and, after reviewing submissions, recommended a slate of appointees to the board.

By their third meeting, Council members had identified six possible subjects for Thrive to address, including topics such as safety and nutrition. They’ve recommended two issues to the board of directors, which will choose Thrive’s next area of focus.

Once targeted, the board will contract with Augustana Research Institute to undertake a comprehensive study of the issue comparable to the “Affordable Housing Needs Assessment 2016”, which laid the foundation for the new Housing Action Team’s work.

Hanson expects a new study to be targeted in May and completed by the end of this summer. Then, the Council will solicit applications and recommend members for a second action team.

Trying to make better use of existing community resources through means such as improved collaboration to help children is a positive endeavor, Riss said.

“I just think we’re very fortunate to live in a community where so many people are willing to raise their hands to help ensure our youth are given opportunities to be successful,” she said. “Thrive is another example of that.”

─Rob Swenson for Thrive

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