SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Each person has their own identity that makes them who they are. And each one helps make up the community of Sioux Falls. For the last 25 years, one local organization has worked to make sure that everyone in the community feels a sense of belonging.
Throughout Sioux Falls you’ll notice people of different cultures and backgrounds. That diversity will only continue to grow as the city welcomes more people.
For the last 25 years, the Multi-Cultural Center has served as a place for people to learn, celebrate, and share the community’s diversity.
“Sioux Falls is growing so rapidly, we see so much diversity in our community and the fact that our organization has not only been around for 25 years, but has been thriving, shows that there’s a need for the programs and resources we provide in the community,” director of development and marketing, Kadyn Wittman said.
The Multi-Cultural Center was founded in November of 1996.
It started out with a discussion between several people with a passion for helping others.
“There was a surge at that point, the county and the state were all saying ‘we need some resources, what are we going to do,’ and so it was born out of that so we asked several community members to join us, who had the passion for making a difference for kids and families,” one of the original founders of the Multi-Cultural Center, Janell Mills said.
Janell Mills is one of the original founders.
“There was need to figure out how do we help all these families that are coming, how to we help them belong, have a sense of belonging to the community so they aren’t separate, because know when we are working together the community is stronger,” Mills said.
Now a quarter of a century later, the organization is still making a difference. It offers a variety of programs and resources for community members.
“We have over 20 interpreters on staff and we offer translations of over 25 different languages and those services are used by hospitals, medical professionals, attorneys, the court system, the police department, really any time there’s a language barrier, we are one of the first people that get the call to bring a translator or interpreter on site,” Wittman said.
The organization also does community outreach and has a workforce development program.
“Clients come in, meet with a program coordinator who can walk them through everything from building a resume, teaching them how to apply for jobs online, interview preparation, and we also provide free interview clothing at our career closet,” Wittman said.
Over the last 25 years the diversity in Sioux Falls has grown, Wittman says there are over 140 languages spoken within the city.
“We know that our school systems are very diverse, I think 40% of the students in school right now are considered minorities and then with organizations and companies like Smithfield, like the Amazon distribution center that’s opening up, we are going to see a lot of diverse community members joining Sioux Falls,” Wittman said.
This summer the Multi-Cultural Center will also celebrate 25 years of the Festival of Cultures.
“People can go who might not have traditionally been exposed to other cultures or ethnicities, they can go and learn about them and sample foods from different cultures, see entertainment from different cultures, they can buy goods from folks who are not native to Sioux Falls or South Dakota,” Wittman said.
While Wittman says they are looking forward to that event this summer, she’s also looking forward to what the future holds.
“I’d love to expand our programs, I know a really hot topic right now in Sioux Falls is childcare, I would love to explore what childcare would look like through our organization, I want to expand our workforce development program,” Wittman said.
A place where everyone is welcome.
“It seems like today there are so many divisions, so many things that separate us, that we can have one place that says it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, what your color of skin is, the clothes you wear, you are welcome here and we are going to celebrate you,” Mills said.
Later this month, the Multi-Cultural Center was going to celebrate 25 years with a birthday celebration, but decided to cancel due to COVID-19. For more information about the organization and future events, click here.