Sioux Falls, SD
Families across KELOLAND are spending Thanksgiving without their husband, father or a loved one because they are serving time in the State Penitentiary. But Family Connection in Sioux Falls is making the holidays easier.
There are more than 1,400 men in the South Dakota prison system in Sioux Falls and Family Connection provides a place for women and children to enjoy a festive meal without missing out on a holiday visit.
"I don't know, I really don't know what I would do if I could not come over here," visitor Tammy Stymiest said.
Stymiest is from Rapid City and has been visiting her boyfriend in prison for the past nine years. Every time she comes to Sioux Falls she stays at Family Connection, which provides a place to stay for families of men in prison.
On Thanksgiving, several of the families come together to have their own meal.
"I think I've been here almost every Thanksgiving in the last nine years," Stymiest said.
"We're open for all the holidays but this seems to be the time when everyone comes in," Family Connection Hospitality Director Jennifer Koepsell said.
This year Stymiest and Koepsell are preparing a meal for at least four families.
"It's just like having another family, it really is," Stymiest said.
And the families, who have loved ones up at the prison and share a Thanksgiving meal, end up being like an extended family and provide support for one another.
"Holidays are emotional anyway. It can be a lonely time. Here's a way for them to not feel so lonely, to go up and visit them but also come back and have the traditional meal and meet new friends and be surrounded with love and food and companionship," Koepsell said.
"You meet the absolute best people that come and stay here too. I have made some of the best friends in the last nine years that I've been coming here," Stymiest said.
It's a place that can provide a little piece of home for those who have loved ones in prison.
During the rest of the year, Family Connection provides rooms for families at a cost of $5 per night.
The organization owns homes on Minnesota Avenue and mainly operates through personal donations.