Hojer, Flickinger nominated for award

Spirit of Dakota Award will be given Oct. 2 to a woman who makes a difference

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Caryn Hojer and Robyn Freedom Flickinger of De Smet have been nominated by their peers and community to be honored at the Spirit of Dakota’s 35th Anniversary Celebration and Award Banquet in Huron. Both women join other nominees Angela Ehlers, Presho; Roberta Hindberg, Tea; Sandra Larson, Box Elder; Coleen Liebsch, Arlington; Jody Moritz, Faulkton; Kristi Noem, Pierre; Marileen Tilberg, Onida and Linda Witt, Bristol.

The Spirit of Dakota Award is given to a woman who demonstrates leadership, vision, courage and strength of character; and by her example, inspires others to make a difference in their community and state.

About Caryn Hojer

Hojer is a woman “whose character, courage, strength, determination, leadership, humility, diligence, selflessness and service to all those around her is the sole purpose of her life,” writes Jill Hoek.

Hojer is the ultimate servant leader. She would tell you that her full-time job is serving as the Kingsbury County Register of Deeds. That is inaccurate according to those who have nominated her. Her full-time job is the endless hours and commitment she gives to her community and to those around her.

Hojer has been a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the De Smet Fire and Rescue for 18 years, has served as an officer for 14 years and is also known to drive the ambulance. Recently, while she was on vacation from the Register of Deeds office, she assisted in five 200-mile round-trip ambulance runs from De Smet to Sioux Falls, logging 1,000 miles to help people in her community.

Hojer serves on the Local Emergency Planning Committee for Kingsbury County and served as the 2008 president of the South Dakota Association of County Officials. She is also active in the American Lutheran Church and was an officer of the De Smet High School Music Boosters.

The divorced, single parent of four productive children has instilled in them her spirit of public service and of random acts of kindness. Three of her children are EMTs for the local ambulance service and fire department.

For over three decades it has been a Hojer family tradition to do a random act of kindness for someone in the community. On Christmas morning, “they share their acts with each other while preserving the identity of the recipient.” Hojer’s acts have included delivering food and clothing to families and paying off someone’s property taxes. For Hojer, Christmas is an attitude, not an annual holiday.

Throughout the year she can be found cleaning up tree damage for a stage 4 cancer patient on hospice, sitting with a friend’s husband who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s, driving a neighbor to chemotherapy appointments or fund-raising to meet community needs. She also provided care for a bachelor uncle who suffered from dementia and sundowners — rescuing him from many dangers.

“She treats every citizen with the utmost respect and leads by example through her selfless actions,” writes Becky Geyer.

“I have known her for a number of years,” said co-worker Audrey Lembke. “She is an amazing young woman who quietly helps others and deserves to be recognized for her compassion and commitment to our community.”

Hojer, who lives in De Smet, was nominated by Becky Geyer, Audrey Lembke and Jill Hoek.

About Robyn Freedom Flickinger

“Flickinger is so active in our community that there are no projects that she isn't in the middle of,” writes Patti Ward. “She does not let Muscular Dystrophy get in her way. Even though it has slowed her down, she still goes beyond what any of us, without disabilities, could do. Flickinger is a true prairie woman.”

Flickinger always jokes that she doesn't know if she should wear clogs or moccasins. Her father’s family came from Holland, and her mother was half Cherokee. Flickinger was born and raised in De Smet, one of George and Mary Smith's five children. No matter her footwear or her confinement to a wheelchair, Flickinger does not let difficulties assign her to life's sidelines.

After high school, Flickinger began studying art at Northern State College. Health issues interrupted. Later, she attended Central Community College in Columbus, Neb. While her 4.0 GPA gave testimony to a highly functioning brain, a Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis testified to her body's increasing limitations. Flickinger changed goals. She moved back to De Smet and began working to improve the quality of the lives of others. Her impact has been profound; her contributions numerous.

Flickinger first became involved in what is now the Independent Living Center. She helped people with disabilities engage in programs which helped them with their everyday lives. She provided information about ADA issues, guidelines and programs.

Flickinger is a busy, dedicated lady. She taught craft classes at the Good Samaritan Nursing Home for four years. For six years she helped organize The North Pole Project—arranging for Santa Claus and his horse-drawn sleigh to deliver presents and to give rides to the nursing home residents and to children.

For eight years, Flickinger and her husband Don delivered Meals on Wheels. For 10 years, Flickinger painted life-sized characters of local children and did face-painting at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant. Flickinger has been involved in sound, lighting, set and costume design for 85 performances of the De Smet Community Theatre.

Beginning in 2006, Flickinger has donated her time to SHINE, the Senior Health Information and Insurance Education program. Serving all of Kingsbury County, SHINE educates people on Medicare benefits and on how to avoid fraud. Flickinger’s statistics for 2018 and 2019 are impressive. She donated 232 hours of work, serving 250 clients and saving a total of $581,532.81.

Flickinger is the volunteer coordinator for the Kingsbury County Food Pantry and writes grants to help feed the underprivileged. Part of this grant provides 30-40 children food through the Backpack Program. Flickinger is also the contact point for the State-sponsored Senior Box Program.

Flickinger and her husband Don live in De Smet where Flickinger operates Freedom Designs. She illustrates children's books, makes cornhusk dolls, creates pheasant feather items and paints murals. She was nominated by the De Smet Chamber of Commerce, the City of De Smet and the Kingsbury County Food Pantry.

South Dakota’s premier woman’s award will be presented Sat., Oct. 2 at the Huron Event Center beginning with an art show at 4 p.m., social 5:30 p.m. and banquet 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the banquet may be purchased at the Huron Chamber Office: 605-352-0000 or 1-800-487-6673.

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