Feeding America

From big holes to empty bowls: A-G-E construction project helps feed SD

For more information and to purchase tickets to the 2018 Pierre Empty Bowls event, click here.



By Dave Askins with the Capital Journal 

January 29, 2018 - A-G-E Corporation, the Fort Pierre heavy construction company, is not connected in any obvious way to Pottery Plus, the paint-your-own pottery store on Capitol Avenue, across from the county courthouse in Pierre.The non-obvious way they’re connected is through a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating hunger in the state – Feeding South Dakota.

On Friday afternoon at the Feeding South Dakota warehouse facility off US-14 north of Pierre, A-G-E presented the nonprofit with a check for $500. Based on Feeding South Dakota numbers that’s enough to provide 2,000 meals. 

Making the check presentation were A-G-E’s owner and president Gary Johnson and his son, the company’s vice president Gerad Johnson. The check itself, though, was signed by the South Dakota chapter of Associated General Contractors. 

Every year AGC gives “Build South Dakota” awards to three different highway-heavy-utilities projects that show “excellent management and client service, innovation in construction techniques or materials, community relations and/or sensitivity to the environment.” The winner of an award gets to designate the charity that receives a $500 donation, and A-G-E chose Feeding South Dakota.

This year, A-G-E added to its dozen or so previous awards, which date back to 1992, Gary Johnson told the Capitol Journal.

The project that won the award involved erosion control around a bridge on SD-63 across the Grand River, in the northern part of the state, just south of Little Eagle on Standing Rock Reservation. The original construction contract was for $2,710,188 according to SD Transportation Commission documents, but was increased in summer 2017 by $425,323 because the DOT wanted A-G-E to do some additional work.

That dollar amount put the project in the “medium” category of three sizes for the AGC awards. 

The scope of the project included 33,000 tons of riprap – rock of the sort that lines the banks of the Missouri River where it flows through Pierre. Gerad Johnson served as the construction manager on the job, which took about a year to complete. 

Asked why A-G-E chose Feeding South Dakota as its designated charity, Gerad Johnson said they believe in the work that FSD does, because “one of the most basic things you can do to help humanity is to give them something to eat.”  He said that in the community where award-winning project was located, they saw firsthand the kind of need that FSD can address.

The check presentation on Friday came during the lead-up to a fundraiser on Feb. 27 – the Empty Bowls supper, to be held at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church on Grand Avenue in Pierre.

In the weeks ahead of the fundraiser, Pottery Plus owner Debbie Jensen is inviting people to paint bowls that will be given away to Empty Bowls attendees, so serve as a reminder of the ongoing need. The $10 price – to paint a bowl and have Jensen fire it in her 1,800 Fahrenheit degree kiln – essentially just covers her cost, Jensen told the Capital Journal.

Jensen uses a glaze that is food safe, dishwasher safe and microwave safe, she said.

This is the second year for the Empty Bowls fundraiser, and the second year Jensen is organizing bowl painting in connection with it. 

Last year she was managing Pottery 2 Paint, on Sioux Avenue. But last summer, when the Branding Iron Bistro fire next door caused smoke damage to the pottery store. When the owner decided not to re-open, Jensen, a retired nurse, decided to give the same business concept a try herself. And so far it’s going well, she said.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the 2018 Pierre Empty Bowls event, click here.

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