PINE RIDGE RESERVATION, S.D. (KELO) — While many areas of South Dakota were hit hard by winter weather over the last couple weeks, some have not recovered as quickly as others.
First Families Now is a nonprofit that has been on the Pine Ridge Reservation for five years. The organization’s mission is to create sustainability for families in the community.
Thursday, they hosted a drive-through giveaway where they handed out out heaters and portable fireplaces. Cars lined the road with people for the day’s event.
Director Alice Phelps says this is something they’ve had planned for awhile, but the timing of it with the recent winter weather makes it even more important.
“It was about an average of 300 cars that come, and we try to give them a fireplace and a heater, as well as coats, boots, shoes and blankets. We have lots of blankets,” Phelps said.
They gave out 150 fireplaces and 290 heaters. It’s all part of the campaign “Warm up the Ridge.”
“It was all outside, so we had like kind of a drive-through. The cars were lined up for like a mile, if not longer,” Alice’s daughter Ashley Garcia said.
Garcia says running the organization is a family affair.
“It’s something that’s really dear to my heart, and I’m sure to all of us. It’s something that we love to do and we love to engage. It feels good to help, and then we feel like we get help in turn,” Garcia said.
“I love my people and I know there’s lots of struggles going on, and I do the best I can and my family, we all work together, the nonprofit. And I’ve been an administrator in the schools for over 18 years and I’ve seen firsthand the struggles and just survival mode everyday with a lot of our families,” Phelps said.
The organization gives back all year by handing out food every Wednesday, hosting a number of cultural events and more. They are currently raising money to help buy propane for people who need it.
“We only do that as we get the funding. We wish we could do more, but as we get more, we can help out more,” Phelps said.
Phelps says it is very rewarding to help people in her own community.
“We can rest assured that things will be a little bit better this next storm, because it was pretty sad and hard this last storm, and I’m sure it was on everybody, you know, but it was extra for those that didn’t have that heat,” Phelps said.
They have another semi coming Friday fully loaded with chicken, ham and turkey to giveaway as well.