A Joint Effort: Running Strong, OSTDEM, and Others Fix Hail Damaged Homes on Pine Ridge

Thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, and our partners including the Director of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Emergency Management (OSTDEM) Steve Wilson and Outreach Coordinator Maretta Champagne, Tipi Raisers, and others, numerous homes damaged by a devastating hail storm on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in July have been repaired.

Running Strong field staffer Ken Lone Elk (Oglala Lakota) led the effort beginning shortly after the hail storm which shattered countless windows, stripped vinyl siding from the outside of mobile homes, damaged roofs and more.

Ken, a long-time resident of Pine Ridge, knew the best way to tackle the problem was to coordinate with the OSTDEM and other nongovernmental agencies working on Pine Ridge in an organized effort.

His first priority was reaching out to Steve, who being relatively new to the job, did not know Ken, but quickly learned that Ken was someone he wanted to work with.

With the obvious widespread damage, Steve knew that the tribal government would not be able to go it alone.

“We can’t do everything ourselves,” said Steve. “We need to get everyone involved.”

Maretta said the partnership between the tribe and the nonprofits would not have happened without Ken’s initiative.

“Ken came in and was instrumental in formulating this group,” she said. “He stepped up when nobody else did and for that I’m grateful. We didn’t have that before.”

The first steps involved in providing repairs to some 550 homes, amounting to an estimated $10 million in damages, was to get everyone at the table – the tribe, Running Strong, Tipi Raisers, and others to plot out a coordinated plan of action and to ensure there would be no overlap and duplication of services.

The first question Ken posed at their initial gathering was, “How can we help each other?”

From there the nine districts of Pine Ridge were divided up, no easy task considering its size – 3,468 square miles and larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

With Ken leading the charge, he volunteered Running Strong to take on the most remote districts reaching out to those most in need who are the hardest to reach, and most unlikely to ask for help despite their dire circumstances.

Through the partnership, thanks to the supporters of Running Strong, we were able to purchase windows, siding and other building materials in bulk at a great savings, with the materials to be stored at Tipi Raisers’ warehouse near the small community of Oglala where many mobile homes had been severely damaged.

In January, Ken reported that for the Oglala project alone, Running Strong purchased nearly $7,500 worth of siding, lumber, shingles, nails, screws and more, and that does not include the windows – and all of that goes a long way when they are being used with volunteer labor.

As of just a few days ago, Ken reported that they had completed 59 of the 61 mobile home projects in the Oglala neighborhood known as Belt Village.

Despite the snow storms which have closed roads for days on the reservation, and the frigid weather, Ken, the Tipi Raisers and their volunteers, the Oglala Sioux Tribe staff and others have been working diligently to ensure these families have a warm safe home to live in this winter.

“It actually happened,” commented Steve.

Ken knows none of this would have happened without the generous help of the supporters of Running Strong from throughout the country, and the spirit of cooperation of all the other organizations banding together in this time of great need for hundreds of Pine Ridge families.

“I am extremely grateful to the other nonprofits for their eagerness to help,” said Ken.

“It really turned out well.”

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