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2017 Governor’s Awards Presented


Contact: Dan Hoblick, Department of Human Services, 605-773-6463


2017 Governor’s Awards Presented


PIERRE, S.D. – Lt. Gov. Matt Michels presented the 2017 Governor’s Awards today to South Dakota businesses and workers who have made significant contributions to the employment of people with disabilities.


Governor’s Awards were presented to the following recipients:


Koni Sims of Sioux Falls is legally blind due to a rare eye disease called Aniridia. After acquiring her degree, Sims began work with Sanford University of South Dakota Medical Center where she developed the current hospital massage program. Outside of work, Sims is the current president of the Siouxland Chapter of the South Dakota Association of the Blind. For these achievements, Sims was awarded the Outstanding Citizen with a Disability Award.


Tami Francis of Sioux Falls sought help from the Division of Service to the Blind and Visually Impaired after losing her vision. Francis returned to school and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree and went on to purchase a coat manufacturing business, Dakota Etcetera. Francis donates coats from her business to those in need and is an active member of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. Francis was awarded the Outstanding Employee with a Disability Award for her efforts.


Pizza Ranch of Spearfish retains individuals with disabilities as part of their winning workforce, and they have been recognized as the Outstanding Private Employer (Small Employer Category). Owners Ted and Jill Schilling partner within their community to promote a diverse workforce, offering equal employment opportunities for all. 


County Fair Food Store of Mitchell has been serving the Mitchell area since 1984. County Fair Food Store was today’s recipient of the Outstanding Private Employer (Large Employer Category). They partner with community support providers and other local organizations to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.


Meri Erickson of Groton has assisted over 100 students with disabilities to transition from high school to the adult world in her 31 years of working at Groton High School. For that reason, Erickson has been selected as the recipient of the Outstanding Transition Services Award.


Yankton Area Mental Wellness Inc. began in 1999 as a mental wellness conference. Since achieving incorporation in 2000, Yankton Area Mental Wellness Inc. has promoted mental health careers, provided resources to providers and families, and partnered with the school district and others in Yankton.  For this, Yankton Area Mental Wellness Inc. received the Distinguished Service Award.


The 2017 Governor’s Awards ceremony was co-sponsored by the Board of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Board of Service to the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Statewide Independent Living Council, and the South Dakota Department of Human Services.