Eye on KELOLAND: A growing need

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Dakota has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Yet, food distribution sites are still seeing double the amount of people come through since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back in February, Dixie Wickham and her family were the victims of a house fire. Everyone made it out ok, except for pretty much all of their personal belongings.

“I was depressed and shut down,” volunter Dixie Wickham said.

But despite not having a house, she still has a place that she considers a home.

“I ended up taking that week off of work, and by Thursday I told my husband, ‘I’ve got to get back to normal. I’m going to the food drive whether you like it or not,” Wickham said.

That second home is the Faith Temple Food Giveaway.

“I started coming when I needed food, when my son was a year old; he is now thirteen,” Wickham said.

She and her family of six have been receiving food from the giveaway for roughly 9 years. At that time, her husband was also laid off from his job.

Right now, South Dakota has an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is one of the lowest in the nation. Director of the Faith Temple Food Giveaway Jeff Hayes says they’re seeing double the amount of people come through because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s more people that are struggling financially than ever before. We’ll have people come and they’ll say, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever been here because I’ve lost my job or my hours at work have been cut,'” Hayes said.

He says he’s met many people who come through that live out of their cars.

“I believe that people that are hungry for food often times invisible amongst us; they drive cars, they work jobs, but they just cant find enough food to feed their families,” Hayes said.

“I would say it’s all around money… And what they want for rent and insurance, and with food prices going up, it’s hard,” Wickham said.

Hayes goes on to say that they’ve seen a surplus of donations from the public.

“It seems like as we pray, more donations come, and so since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been kind of doing this on our own, rounding up our own food, and so, amazingly, we’ve had, probably in the last year, hundreds of thousands of pounds of food come our way,” Hayes said.

But that only offers a temporary solution.

“I’m just trusting that their jobs will pay more, possibly people just have to use a little ingenuity – you know, during the depression in the 1930’s families would even live in the same house and share expenses,” Hayes said.

But, despite needing the help themselves, the Wickham family is giving back. Wickham is joined by her daughters out at the W. H. Lyon Fairgrounds to help distribute food.

“This is my eight-year-old girl… Eight? No. Eleven. (Laughs) That’s my eight-year-old over there,” Wickham said.

“We get to see different things that we don’t get to see every day,” Daughter said.

She says they help out every Friday, and even on special occasions.

“On the week of their birthday, ‘what do you want to do?’ ‘Go out to the food drive and help out,'” Wickham said.

When they’re done for the day, they also receive a box of food. Wickham says they consider the group an extended family.

“We got new shirts and she’s having everyone sign the back of hers,” Wickham said.

“We probably have about 80 volunteers here, and these folks are happy to serve, willing to serve, they pull wagons, they load cars, they run forklifts. We just appreciate our volunteers so much,” Hayes said.

“It’s like a big family; we call each other when we need help. We have different people we can call here and there,” Wickham said.

The Wickhams currently live in a rental home. They plan to rebuild on their old lot.

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