A Light Burns Bright in the Black Hills

Posted on March 23, 2017

Paula Jensen
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“We’re all just little lighthouses that need a chance to shine,” explains Jamie Gilcrease-Heupel, a 2016 Dakota Rising graduate and community volunteer in Lead-Deadwood.

Jamie doesn’t just shine. She radiates.

Prior to becoming a Dakota Rising Fellow, Jamie was leasing a small coffee shop space in Lead and was just coming into her own as a community volunteer. Now she’s on the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center board of directors, Lead Chamber of Commerce board, Lead Kiwanis board, Boys and Girls Club Resource Development Team and multiple local committees.

“Once I became involved with Dakota Rising, I really found my voice,” explains Jamie. “It was like someone lit a match. I realized that getting involved with my community was really important to me, and that I could make a difference.”

Not only did Jamie build a beautiful new space for Lotus Up Espresso and Deli, double her profits and grow her business, but her list of community involvement projects also grew…and grew…and grew. One of her favorite projects is called “Souper Starz” and it combines the very best of Jamie’s passions: food, dreamers, networking and the Lead Kiwanis Club.

“I was inspired after the folks at Dakota Rising urged me to attend OTA and I heard about a similar idea,” she explains. “I’m a dreamer and I love other dreamers. I have had so much great support in my own adventure, and I wanted to help others get off the ground.”

The idea behind Souper Starz is simple.

Each month, people pay $10 to enjoy a hot bowl of soup while up to six applicants are given a five minute platform for presenting their dreams. Each applicant is encouraged to invite as many people as possible to support them. Five dollars goes into the grant fund and five dollars goes to the Lead Kiwanis Club—so more people equals more funding. After the presentations, all of the people in the room vote on their favorite idea. The winner wins a $200+ grant to help fund their dreams (the project was kick started with a $1,000 grant from Goldcorp Wharf and is sponsored by the Lead Kiwanis Club). However, the real prize is usually much more than that. According to Jamie, approximately 85 people attend each gathering and some of the people in the crowd are spurred to provide help beyond the grant. “The ripple effect is amazing. People listening in the crowd might grab hold of one of the dreams and provide support, even if that particular idea didn’t win the votes,” she explains. “I’ve seen some amazing things happen in our community, from teenagers making a difference to organizations joining together for good. It’s awesome. This whole experience just makes me so proud of our community.”

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