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Two workers and a resident of New Beginnings Center pose and smile for the camera with My Place CEO Ryan Rivett.

A community collaborates to build New Beginnings

How Aberdeen businesses built two basketball courts in two weeks

Basketball is a popular activity for clients at the New Beginnings Center (NBC), a youth care facility in Aberdeen, S.D. It’s been that way since Liesl Hovel started with Lutheran Social Services years ago.

Hovel is the Director of Development for Lutheran Social Services (LSS), Northeast Region, which is focused on updating the center’s facilities through a capital campaign announced last year. LSS is a non-profit human services agency dedicated to transforming people’s lives, and the clients at NBC are among the organization’s many beneficiaries. Outside of capital campaigns, the NBC relies on contributions such as monetary donations, volunteer hours, and in-kind donations from its wishlist.

"I’ve been here 19 years and a basketball court has been on the wishlist every year," Hovel said. "When My Place told us they were putting this together, I was ecstatic! But I had no idea you could do it this fast."

Seven workers stand at the ready in their mud boots ahead of pouring concrete for a new basketball court

This is not unlike the story of Stone Soup. Ever heard? It’s a tale about travelers who convince the people of a town to each share a small amount of their food in order to make a meal they can all enjoy together. While many variations of the tale are told to convey the value of giving, this one also begins with a couple of travelers–who are also hoteliers and community members from the railroad town of Aberdeen.

One of them, Jason Welk, began volunteering at the New Beginnings Center (NBC) over 10 years ago. While working through the challenges COVID-19 presented throughout his professional work, another calling persisted in his personal work. In March, he began assisting the center’s clients as a residential counselor.

"It’s self-help more than anything else," he said. "Seeing real happiness and real joy makes me happy. Those kids have my heart."

As a franchisee and friend of My Place Hotels of America’s President/CEO Ryan Rivett, Welk mentioned his recent work at NBC as the duo caught up recently.

“Ryan asked me to tell him more about it and whether the kids needed anything," he said. "At that point, all I could think about was the basketball court. It’s about all they have for an outdoor release.”

Cement truck pouring concrete with workers smoothing it out to prepare a basketball court.

So, back to Stone Soup. In every iteration of the tale, the delicious stew is made through many small contributions beginning with a single “magic stone.” In this variation, there wasn’t a magic stone or even untrusting townspeople to persuade, but there was a catalyst. Much like the owner of the magic stone, Ryan knew a greater good could be achieved with collaboration.

Assembling his closest team of builders first, other major contributors from the community soon lined up to assist with not just one, but two courts so girls and boys could enjoy basketball at the same time. After dirt and concrete work was completed within the first week, Ryan and Liesl were joined by NBC Associate Director Thomasina Rohrbach and Ashley, an NBC client, for a tour of the grounds.

Rohrbach told us that while clients love to volunteer for opportunities to engage with the community, restrictions posed by the pandemic have severely hampered those outlets. While the makeshift court was a good outlet for the clients, the two new courts will be put to important use, she said.

New Beginnings Center

“Even though it’s a gravel parking lot, it gives them time to exercise and manage their energy. Here, that is our work, and it makes a big difference.”

Thomasina Rohrbach, Associate Director, New Beginnings Center

Ryan Rivett stands with three employees at the New Beginnings Center

And what a difference new beginnings can make.

“I love Aberdeen. It’s so beautiful," Ashley, a client, said. "Here, I’ve learned a lot about myself, about the community, and how to communicate with others.”

When asked how he (or we) could be given recognition on the court, Rivett told Hovel that it was neither his place or his intention.

"What you can do for me is continue to tell us what the center needs in terms of items," he answered. “It can take a lot of time to ask for money. This project came together the way it did because we’re builders at heart; we know where to go and who to ask for materials.”

The next day, a mark of thanks was made in the same fashion the courts were – with many hands.

Handprints in cement spelling out 'My Place'

A Special Thanks to the Many Hands:

  • Legacy Builders for Labor and Basketballs
  • Legacy Management for Labor and Basketball Hoops
  • Jensen Rock & Sand for Concrete
  • MP Technology for Labor
  • Steel Structures for Labor
  • RDO for Skid Steer Rental
  • Campbell’s Town & Country for Materials
  • Stan Houston for Concrete Tool Rental
  • B&B Contracting for Dirt Work
  • New Life Fellowship for Striping Stencils and Paint