SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Eric Weber reached for a child’s winter coat from a pile in the distribution center at Union Gospel Mission.

He took the sleeve of the coat and twisted it and water poured from the coat. This coat, along with dozens of others, were ruined by a Dec. 26 water line break at UGM’s building at 701 E. 8th St.

The building houses the women’s center, thrift store and the distribution center for UGM.

Early damage estimates are at $100,000, said UGM’s marketing coordinator Elly Heckel. And 28 women and nine children at the women’s center were displaced by the water line break.

Weber, the chief executive officer for UGM, said on Tuesday, that he can’t be emotional about the losses because the immediate priority was caring for the women and children.

The 37 people were immediately housed at another UGM site, Weber said. As of Tuesday, UGM worked with its partners at St. Francis, the Children’s Inn and other sites to secure more temporary housing for the women and children.

“Our guests are homeless already and we just want them to be in a safe place until we get everything figured out,” Heckel said.

Weber and Heckel said they were grateful for the help from partners in the city.

Weber said a sprinkler pipe on the building’s top floor broke and caused the damage.

“The water on this floor went down, and it went down again, and again. All four floors,” Weber said of the water that cascaded down several floors of the building.

It some ways, UGM will need to start from scratch.

“The thrift store is a total loss,” Weber said.

Water was pooled by the Thrift Store entrance. A shelf of shoes contained water. Snow boots were soaked. Rack after rack of clothing was soaked with water from the leak. Staff and/or volunteers had set up fans to help dry out items.

Weber said UGM planned to bale items that could be salvaged. But, the dirt the water picked up as it streamed down the building, means no one will wear that clothing, he said.

Items in the distribution area of Union Gospel Mission at 701 E. 8th are damaged by a water line break.

Heckel walked through water in the building’s basement which is the distribution center. Heckel coordinates the volunteers and others who sort the donations.

“For me it’s a little bit emotional because I handle all of our volunteers,” Heckel said.

“A lot of the items behind me, were in two inches of water or more,” Heckel said as she pointed to a pile of donated items in bags.

Thankfully, Weber said, the mission was able to hand out coats and other items for Christmas.

How can the public help?

The water line break in the building’s sprinkler system was discovered at about 11 p.m. on Dec. 26, Weber said. An alarm sounded and the mission staff responded quickly to evacuate women and children, Weber said.

By 11:45 p.m. staff had already started cleaning up by removing the carpet and damaged computers in the women’s center.

But more help will be needed.

Heckel said items will need to be sorted for the UGM baler. Other items will need to be disposed of. The cleaning needs to be done efficiently because of the threat of mold and mildew.

UGM will need sheets, blankets, pillows and other items.

And monetary donations will be needed to help replace items lost in the water damage.

The office hours at 701 E. 8th St. may be different because of water damage, Heckel said.

Those interested in volunteering can still call the main number at 605-334-6732 or email at

More information on how the community can help will be available via UGM social media.

Businesses deal with water damage

Business tenants and residents in the Jones421 building in the city’s downtown are also dealing with a water line break.

Del’Inkka Beaudion, the owner of Swamp Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen, said the extent of the water damage at her business was not yet known. As of around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday she was waiting to learn more from her insurance company.

“You don’t see all the damage, what water does in the interior walls…,” Beaudion said.

Beaudion also said Intoxibakes, the business next door, also had water damage.

A post on the Swamp Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen Facebook page said a water line broke on Dec. 25 in the building and businesses and residents were cleaning up.

A water line broke at Sanford USD Medical Center and Hospital on Dec. 24. The break flooded the lobby, Sanford officials said.

The city of Rapid City reported on Facebook on Dec. 26 that a water line at Carriage Hills Place area had been repaired. The city reported on social media that the break affected a 12-inch line that impacted nearly 100 residences and properties.

About five days ago, the city of Rapid City also reported at water line break on the 300 block of East Philadelphia Street. About 30 residences, a church and apartment building were impacted.

Three days ago, the city of Sioux Falls reported a water main break on Kiwanis Avenue. The street was closed from Russell Street to Brookings Avenue.