In South Dakota, we’re big on helping one another. If someone runs out of gas or gets a flat tire, in South Dakota, folks still stop to lend a hand. In fact, that’s one of the things I love most about the people in our state: their big hearts. I was able to see South Dakota kindness on full display recently in Rapid City during the annual United Way Day of Caring.

Over 1,200 volunteers came out to donate their time and talents at over 80 work sites around the city. From painting houses to mowing lawns and visiting with local seniors, the outpouring of love and spirit of community was truly inspiring. I felt blessed to be a part of it. I was able to visit the Minneluzahan Senior Center, where I met with some older and wiser South Dakotans. I also went to the Working Against Violence, Inc. domestic violence shelter in Rapid City, where Executive Director Mary Corbine gave me a tour and told me about the amazing work they’re doing in the community.

The first “Day of Caring” was in 1999, and it’s wonderful to see how much it has grown and to witness the kind of impact a volunteer effort like this can have. But volunteering isn’t just limited to one-day events. Countless South Dakotans make giving their time a constant commitment. I was in Sioux Falls in August for the 8th Annual WomenUnite event and was impressed by the number of strong women who were involved with volunteer-related activities on a regular basis. Their latest “Girls on Track” program is targeted to girls in 6th through 8th grade and is designed to help them be strong, confident and active young women.

When we volunteer, we’re not just donating our time for a couple hours, we’re improving communities, helping someone in need and inspiring others to do the same. In South Dakota, giving one another a helping hand is second nature, but I still encourage folks to seek out opportunities in their communities to volunteer.

Rep. Kristi Noem is South Dakota’s lone U.S. Representative, elected in November 2010. She serves on the Agriculture, Education and Workforce and Natural Resources Committees.

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