Over a half million dollars from producers, auction barns, local businesses and concerned folks from one side of the country to the other will be added to pot to help ranchers blasted by storm “Atlas.”
What started as a $35,000 gift from First Interstate Bank turned into $520,000 in support of relief efforts for ranchers affected by the early October storm that killed tens of thousands of head of cattle, sheep and horses across Western South Dakota, Nebraska and other neighboring states.
In order to put a multiplier on their donation, the bank made the commitment to purchase a heifer calf at any auction barn that would be willing to host a rollover auction. They found a lot of takers.
“At First Interstate, we pride ourselves on being neighbors helping neighbors,” said Shawn Rost, president of First Interstate Bank in Sturgis, S.D. “The support given to rancher relief efforts by our Company and our communities proves that we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.”
First Interstate’s initial contribution went toward the purchase of 33 heifer calves which were then sold at various sale barns throughout South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Texas. The calves were sold through rollover auctions, meaning the calves could be sold more than once. Thanks to generous donors, $478,000 was raised 27 rollover auctions.
The following barns held rollover benefit sales: Valentine Livestock – Valentine, Neb., Crawford Livestock – Crawford, Neb, Sidney Livestock – Sidney, Mont., (2 rollovers), Billings Livestock – Billings, Mont., Mobridge Livestock – Mobridge, S.D., Yankton Livestock – Yankton, S.D., St. Onge Livestock – St. Onge, S.D., Western Livestock Auction – Great Falls, Mont., Faith Livestock – Faith, S.D., Sioux Falls Regional – Sioux Falls, S.D., Martin Livestock – Martin, S.D. (2 rollovers), Bales Commission - Huron, S.D., Lemmon Livestock – Lemmon, S.D., (2 rollovers), Torrington Livestock – Torrington, Wyo., Mitchell Livestock – Mitchell, S.D., Stockman’s Livestock – Dickinson, N.D., Public Auction Yards – Billings, Mont., Herreid Livestock – Herreid, S.D., Superior Livestock – Ft. Worth, Texas (video auction), Headwaters Livestock – Headwaters, Mont., Miles City Livestock – Miles City, Mont., Lewistown Livestock – Lewistown, Mont., South Dakota Livestock Sales – Watertown, S.D., Presho Livestock – Presho, S.D.
In addition to funds generated at the sale barns, First Interstate supported relief efforts in other ways. First Interstate Bank’s founding family, the Scotts, contributed $5,000 from their Padlock Ranch, and the Dan and Jeanne Scott Foundation donated $10,000. The bank also challenged employees, board members, and advisory board members to personally support relief efforts, with the First Interstate BancSystem Foundation matching contributions, raising an additional $27,000.
“The generosity that resulted from such a devastating storm is truly inspiring,” Rost said.
All funds raised went directly to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund, which was established by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. The Rancher Relief Fund is being managed by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation.
“As stewards of these communities, we feel a strong connection and commitment to the families affected by this devastating storm,” explained First Interstate BancSystem Chairman Tom Scott. “Although these funds compensate for only a small part of what was lost, we hope it will help ease some of the burden and remind our neighbors that First Interstate Bank believes in supporting our communities during both good times and bad.”
Rost wants to thank First Interstate’s Mike Johnson, senior ag lender and credit analyst Gayle Roth for their hands-on participation in the fundraising effort.
“Another big thank you I want to make is for all the auction barns, ranchers and other that participated,” he said.
Rost received phone calls from Alaska, Washington state, Arkansas and a number of places in between.
“I was on vacation with my wife and my cell phone rang. It was this guy from Washington state who had read about what we were doing. He ended up sending a check for several thousand dollars.”
Rost added that the auction barns were notably generous, with many buying the calf in the rollover, giving $1 per head of livestock sold on rollover day or giving in other ways.
Rost expects the bank will make their donation before the end of the year. ❖
To apply for relief funds, go to www.ranchersrelief.org/.
Applications can be made for one’s self or a neighbor or friend.
Applications should be completed by Dec. 31, according to the Rancher Relief website.