Governor recognizes contributions to employment of South Dakotans with disabilities

South Dakota businesses, workers honored at 2015 Governor’s Awards

Gov. Dennis Daugaard addresses the crowd at the 2015 Governor's Awards.

PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard presented awards Sept. 3 to South Dakota businesses and Thore Jenshus of Rapid City earned the 2015 Outstanding Citizen with a Disability award.workers who have contributed the most in 2015 to the employment of people with disabilities.

Thore Jenshus of Rapid City came to South Dakota from Norway in 1997 to attend the School of Mines and Technology and stayed after marrying and starting a family as well as a job at Legend Air Suspension. A dirt bike accident in 2009 left him paralyzed from the chest down, but Jenshus was able to work with the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) on his goal of returning to work as well as plans for driving. Jenshus’ hard work and perseverance in reaching his goals of returning to work and being able to help raise an active daughterearned him the 2015 Outstanding Michael Tieszen of Watertown earned the Outstanding Employee with a Disability award.Citizen with a Disability award.

Michael Tieszen of Watertown worked with a vocational rehabilitation counselor and Human Service Agency staff in Watertown to get a job at Dakota Tube. Over the years, Tieszen has taken on more responsibility and often trains new employees. For his determination in pursuing his dreams, Tieszen was named the Outstanding Employee with a Disability for 2015. Tieszen was unable to attend today’s ceremony, but will receive the award at a ceremony in Watertown next month.

Slumberland Furniture in Pierre not only hires, but Megan and Paul Bowen of Slumberland Furniture in Pierre accepted the award for Outstanding Private Small Employer.provides continuing support for its employees with disabilities. This business promotes partnerships within the community to promote a diverse workforce, offering equal employment opportunities for all while upholding the company’s core values of citizenship and stewardship. As a family-owned business, Slumberland in Pierre takes pride in helping organizations that strengthen children and families in need as well as encouraging employees to share their time and talents with the community. All employees receive formal disability training and are fully integrated during work hours and at after-hour staff events. For its significant efforts toward inclusion for all, Slumberland Furniture of Pierre received this year’s Outstanding Private Small Employer Award with co-owners Paul and Megan Bowen accepting.

Target in eastern Sioux Falls celebrates diversity Several team members from Target Sioux Falls East accpeted the 2015 award for Outstanding Private Large Employer.and inclusion, treating its employees with dignity and respect and valuing each individual’s contributions. The store has partnered with community support providers and other local organizations to provide specific opportunities for people with disabilities, including job shadowing and job coaching as well as trial work periods to provide new employees with various work experiences so they can select preferred positions based on abilities and interests. Target leaders attend Americans with Disabilities Act training, and the eastern Sioux Falls store provides interpreters to accommodate everyone’s communication needs. Target Sioux Falls East is devoted to helping its team members achieve their goals, another reason it was named the 2015 Outstanding Private Large Employer, with several team members accepting the award.

The Clark School District has been providing transition services for high school students with disabilities for many yeSpecial education teacher Susan Schmit and former student Michael Bethke accepted the award for Outstanding Transition Services.ars, implementing innovative strategies and partnerships with other entities to create increased opportunities for students preparing to transition from school to adulthood. Since 1998, staff members have worked with the Project Skills program – a cooperative arrangement with the state’s vocational rehabilitation agency – providing opportunities to learn different skills for students with disabilities through paid work experiences. The district supports four to six students each year through Project Skills, using its own employees to complete job-development, job-coaching and follow-along services. Overall, the Clark School District typically has a positive impact on about 16 students each year through transition services, earning it the Outstanding Transition Services Award for 2015. Special education teacher Susan Schmit and former student Michael Bethke accepted the award.

Don Kinneberg of Florence has made extraordinary contributions to advancing the empowerment and Don Kinneberg of Florence accepted the 2015 Distinguished Service Award.employment of people with disabilities. Kinneberg, who lives on his family farm, worked at the Human Service Agency in Watertown for more than 20 years before retiring to do more of what he loves: spending more time providing an avenue for people with cognitive disabilities to participate in social and religious activities. He has provided financial assistance and given countless hours of his own time – as well as put many miles on his vehicle – so individuals with disabilities could participate in a variety of activities. An active advocate, Kinneberg provides rides to countless events and appointments and has even taken riders to places such as Wisconsin and Arizona after helping plan vacations. Because of his lifelong service and dedication to empowering people with disabilities in their efforts to achieve employment and maintain independence, Kinneberg earned the 2015 Distinguished Service Award

The 2015 Governor’s Awards ceremony was co-sponsored by South Dakota’s Board of Vocational Rehabilitation, Board of Service to the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Statewide Independent Living Council and the Department of Human Services.

About DHS
The South Dakota Department of Human Services’ mission is to enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities, in partnership with its stakeholders, through the programs and services offered by its divisions. Learn more by visiting the department’s website,, and viewing the DHS Strategic Plan.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015
CONTACT: Patrick Baker, DHS communications officer, (605) 773-5990 or

– 30 –