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Stories from the Field: Heat Match Program on Pine Ridge

4/9/14 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota under Emergency Assistance Seasonal Programs




Pine Ridge, South Dakota

“…It was very difficult to turn anyone away because of their determination to do their match…I will attribute this success due to the very cold temperatures we were experiencing during this period and I mean cold, the State of South Dakota broke every past cold weather temperature reading during this period.” – Ken Lone Elk 


A couple of weeks ago the Running Strong Headquarter Office was able to meet with our field staff. The staff from our field office at Pine Ridge Tipi Waste was among our out of town visitors. We had the pleasure to hear first hand about one of Running Strong’s many programs, the Heat Match Program.

Tipi Waste Field Coordinator Dave Lone Elk and his father Ken Lone Elk, who aids Running Strong with utilities assistance and housing on Pine Ridge, told us about their experiences with the program this past February, when there was a severely low temperatures in South Dakota.

Ken started off by telling us about the outpour of requests that came in from Pine Ridge families who wanted to partake in the Heat Match after he was a guest on Pine Ridge’s KILI Radio morning program.

Ken explained, “The calls were coming in at 6am. No one could get into the office, it was just a constant pour of calls asking about the program.

Later Ken and Dave joked about how determined interested individuals were to find their office. “They found us! Even though we are so isolated,” Dave said. The Tipi Waste building is located in a very tucked away location that not many local people are familiar with.

Ken proceeded to tell us that even the most unexpected community members wanted to take part in the program:

There was an elderly gentleman from way out in the middle of the tribal governments of Pine Ridge and Rosebud. He came and brought two hundred dollars. He had a stroke in the past. He couldn’t write. He was really thankful. I sat down with him and helped him with his application. I told him, ‘I’m sorry that I can’t match the two hundred.’ He said that he didn’t care. He said every little bit helps. That day we called the truck that was delivering fuel by Martin, SD in that area where the man lived and so we asked if they could deliver to his house today and they did. The man was very grateful to us and Running Strong.

Ken continued to tell us about what he and Dave encountered through the duration of the Heat Match Program.

There are many stories from [February] 23rd to 28th that are burned into my mind. I was telling Lauren what Running Strong did for Oglala Sioux tribe is beyond comprehension when you think about it. We beat the Housing Authority [in heat support supplied], we beat the tribe as a whole, no one has ever done that in those three weeks, that we did that, the families that we touched.

I know that we were way over budget. But it was hard because of our little office was jammed packed. We had a lot of support from different individuals who helped us and who actually collected applications from others who didn’t have vehicles or gas money to get to our office.

So we were getting applications at 8 and 9 o’clock at night. For the 27 days that Dave and I did that, it was constant. The 25th we stopped all applications out in the district offices. The 27th we stopped accepting applications at our office. We had a stack about that high. We were laughing, we estimated about 200 applications a week. I knew we were way over. I was just praying that everything would turn out for us because the need was really great.

I was saying that Running Strong, the impact that we made, every place that we went, either Dave or I, my wife or even the children, the thanks that people said were so grateful the comments that we received were so powerful, just all the comments were so grateful.

Dave continued:

They were even bringing cash. I told them that we couldn’t take cash. Common Cents store [the store near our office] they were actually issuing money orders way after closing time. There were a lot of people who really helped us out. They even broke down that money order machine; they had to send them to the Post Office in Porcupine.

After our meeting, Dave and Ken returned to Pine Ridge to a blizzard. This year was especially hard for families in South Dakota with an early snow in October of last year, and storms continuing into April, so many people needed our heat match this year. Our heat match program this year helped over 600 families keep warm.

Our programs depend on our field staff, local businesses, tribal partnerships and the support of our headquarters office as well as our donors. These programs aren’t possible without our Running Strong community. We hope to bring you more stories like this one in the future. Wopila!

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