Everyone just got a reminder of what winter can be like in KELOLAND after last week’s snowfall.

And, as we all know, the worst is yet to come.

Fortunately, there is a way for people in need to get the winter apparel they need this season, thanks to Keep KELOLAND Warm.

Keep KELOLAND Warm grew out of tragedy in 2014.

That’s the year a woman, who wasn’t dressed for the bitter cold, died of exposure in a parking garage stairwell.

KELOLAND Media Group and Lewis Drug decided to join forces and ask the public to donate coats.

The groups later distributed them to people in need.

Cut to the present day and we’re still doing it along with the help of both Lewis Drug and Montgomery’s.

The woman you’re about to meet is proof of why this project continues to fill a need.

Carlene Sharkey arrived at the St. Francis House last year with nothing.

“I came here with the prison clothes on my back. No shoes, no socks, no nothing,” St. Francis House Guest Carlene Sharkey said.

She knew that wouldn’t do when winter came knocking on the door.

Afterall, Sharkey rides the bus to work every day.

“I never wait over 15 minutes for a bus, but that 10 or 15 minutes in below zero windchill can feel like a lot,” Sharkey said.

But now she’s equipped with what she needs to fight off the frigid temperatures.

Kelli Volk: This is the coat you got last year.
Sharkey: Yes. This is the coat I got last year and it bundles up all the way.

She also received coveralls from Keep KELOLAND Warm.

“People have been so generous in donating the coats and winter clothing. We’re so appreciative of all the donations,” KELOLAND Media Group Director of Marketing and Creative Services Paul Farmer said.

“Everything that this community does for people is excellent,” Sharkey said.

Sharkey is just one of the many lives touched by Keep KELOLAND Warm.

That need is what keeps it going.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t have access or the ability to get a good warm coat, some nice boots, hat and mittens and it really feels good to be able to get it to them,” Montgomery’s Director of Logistics Matt Reichert said.

“I think it’s always important as a local business to stay involved and keep in touch with the needs of your community and so this is just one of the ways Lewis likes to help support,” Lewis Drug Corporate Vice President Nikki Griffin said.

Worrying about waiting for the bus during the winter is a thing of the past for Sharkey.

But she’ll never forget what it felt like to receive the coat and coveralls.

“Oh my God, it was amazing. It was amazing. Just being warm, just being able to handle the weather out there. Not that I was sleeping on the streets, but just being able to stand at that bus stop and not wanting to quit a job because I was cold,” Sharkey said.

And she has the people of KELOLAND to thank for keeping her warm.

You still have a chance to help. We’re still collecting new or gently used coats and winter apparel.

You can drop them off at any Lewis store in Sioux Falls, except for the one downtown.

Our first distribution of the year is set for this Thursday at the Downtown Library in Sioux Falls from 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.

We have several more planned this year, including distributions in Madison and Watertown.

You can find the full list here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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