Congrats to our citizens of year
Published: Thursday, January 9th, 2014
Pat and Jeff Baird of Custer were our choice for Citizens of the Year for 2013. Since moving to the area in 2004, they have both become involved in many aspects of community life, especially those involving military veterans.
Both of them spent four years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force and another 16 years in the North Dakota Air National Guard to earn their retirements. Jeff is also a retired airline pilot. About this time in 2011, a surreal series of events led to Pat getting the idea to host severely wounded veterans and their families from the nation’s two recent wars at a cabin in the Black Hills at Custer.
First, a non-profit corporation had to be formed with a board of a dedicated five members, including the Bairds. Other board members of Black Hills Cabin are Ione Fejfar, Marty Mahrt and Carol Johnson. Once this was done, the group began searching for places for the wounded veterans and their families to stay near Custer. Vacation homes were “loaned” to them and motel rooms offered. This was not an ideal situation because of scheduling problems.
One of the board members got the wild idea to see about the possibility of getting a Governor’s Home built for the families. A place to put the home would also have to be procured somehow. All this was adding up to a lot of money, but the small band of board members forged ahead. The Bairds traveled to Pierre to present their case. S.D. Housing Authority officials listened and said they would have to build a three-bedroom cabin-style home with two baths instead of a conventional two-bedroom home with one bath to accommodate a veteran with a larger family. And, it had to be handicap accessible Then the Bairds and board members had to figure out how to pay for the anticipated $42,000 expense.
Of course, they also had to find a place to put the cabin in or around Custer. In stepped the City of Custer City with a lease offer the board couldn’t turn down. The city provided an acreage on Dakota Avenue in the northeast part of town at a bargain cost of $1 a year for 30 years. That was all fine and good, but there was a lot of site preparation work to be done before the cabin could be set on this location. Local and regional contractors and suppliers took their turn in stepping up to the plate once they learned about the cabin for wounded veterans.
Still, the board members were faced with paying for the $42,000 structure with their own money, each figuring they would have to pony up about $10,000 apiece to the State of South Dakota. It was never the intent of the state housing authority to have anyone pay for the cabin for veterans. Instead, when the structure arrived, the invoice showed a zero balance due. The State of South Dakota really came through in a big way.
A lot of other people also came through along the way, but the driving force behind the entire project was Pat and Jeff Baird, along with their small but mighty band of board members. Their vision, guided by an “Unseen Hand,” really made it all come to fruition. For that, they earned the distinction of our 2013 Citizens of the Year!
If you would like to volunteer to lend a helping hand to the project, contact the Bairds or any of the other board members. They would be more than happy to get a break during the busy Black Hills Cabin season.
Click Here To See More Stories Like This