For tens of thousands of residents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on the Great Plains of South Dakota, the winter is always brutal, with below-freezing temperatures for days on end and sub-zero wind chill factors.
For some families on Pine Ridge, a strict budget grows even tighter in winter, balancing food, medicine, and other utility bills as fuel and seasonal expenses skyrocket.
That’s why, for more than 20 years, thanks to Running Strong’s supporters, we have kept children, parents, and elders warm on the reservation through our Heat Match program which supplements families’ meager budget for propane or utility bills.
Our Heat Match program typically begins in early January, right after the holidays when they need help the most. But this year, following an early season ice storm in October, we are starting our Heat Match program during the week of Thanksgiving. This might even make it easier for families and the family budget, ensuring Santa can visit!
On Monday, November 20, we will begin accepting applications for our Heat Match program at our field office on the reservation, Tipi Waste Un Zanipi (Wellness Through a Good Home) with a 4:1 match – which means for families who come in with a money order for $100, Running Strong will match it with $400, for a total of $500 to have their propane tank filled or applied to their bill to the local electric company.
That $500 goes a long way towards keeping the heat on in homes, many of them mobile homes with little, if any, insulation, and drafty windows and door frames which offer little protection from keeping frigid winds from blowing right through.
In fact, with that $500, they can keep their home warm on the inside no matter the temperatures outside on the coldest days of winter for an average of six weeks.
Last winter, during the coldest days of the year, we were able to assist 1,905 families, which kept 8,049 individuals, including 4,112 children, warm all winter long.
This year, we are not only starting the program earlier but also expanding our reach on the vast reservation. We have included Nebraska Public Power on our list of vendors participating in the Heat Match for the first time. This expands the program’s reach to areas served by the utility so that we can cover the entire reservation.
Running Strong field coordinator Dave Lone Elk, who each year processes the paperwork for grateful families, shared last year:
- One female elder who had been just getting over the trauma of being housebound for a week during the blizzard of ‘22 told him how fearful she had been before receiving Heat Match funding, saying, “I’m afraid to get snowed in for seven days in without propane again.”
- Another head of the household of a family of four told him: “If it weren’t for Running Strong, we just wouldn’t know how we would be able to pay our electric bill this month.”
The Running Strong Heat Match Program. Warms homes and hearts.