On Wednesday, January 7, the wind chill factor was nearing -30°F on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Running Strong for American Indian Youth® field coordinator Dave Lone Elk told us his young daughter was bundled up that day in “a full-on snowsuit” with long johns and snow boots .
Left: Over 30 residents lined up in person on Jan. 12, and many more called. Right: Dave’s daughter bundled for the cold.
Reservation residents were anxiously awaiting Monday, Jan. 12, when Running Strong’s Heat Match Program would begin for the season, as Lone Elk reported that his office on the reservation had been fielding calls all day.
Through Running Strong’s Heat Match Program Pine Ridge residents are eligible to receive a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $100 to go towards paying for their propane tanks to be filled, or applied towards their electric bill.
Lone Elk said that it’s not uncommon for family members to show up together, each making their own contributions of $60, $20, and $20, in order to reach $100 and be able to double their investment. And, on occasion, when it’s simply not possible for a resident to come up with the full $100, particularly the elderly, Lone Elk has been known to have some flexibility, and compassion, and provide the full match even when the contribution is only $75.
Winter on the Great Plains last year lasted well into spring. To help ensure people on Pine Ridge had heat, thanks to our generous and compassionate supporters, Running Strong was able to allocate additional funding and extend the program until winter’s last blast.
Lone Elk describes the heat match program as “a little helping hand after the holidays,” which it is. But it’s also much more, it’s a program that literally saves lives and keeps families from being forced to make the impossible choice of putting food on the table, keeping a roof over their head, or staying warm inside when the wind-chill factor is 30 below outside.
And thanks to Running Strong supporters, they don’t have to.