NewsDecember 03 2014

Senior meal program to end in Lyman County due to declining numbers

Posted by Lucy

Lyman County residents participating in the Dakota Senior Meal program were notified last week by the Rural Office of Community Services (ROCS) that due to the declining number of participants and the rising cost of preparing and transporting meals, the program would end December 31, 2014.

"The Kennebec and Presho sites have been a concern of the ROCS Board of Directors for awhile," said Janet Janousek, Director of Dakota Senior Meals.

Betty Jean Mertens, who was instrumental in getting the program started in Lyman County in the fall of 2007 was saddened and disappointed to hear of the end of the program.

"The program is a real benefit to those using it," said Mertens. "It’s just too bad we don’t have more people in the program."

Janousek said the board voted last Monday to discontinue services at Presho, Kennebec and Colome.

"Colome has had the same problems with participation," said Janousek.

A hot shot truck operated by ROCS Transit program, delivers meals prepared and packaged at the Chamberlain Senior Center kitchen to several individuals in the Reliance and Kennebec area and the Presho fire hall, where a group of people gather to eat together Monday thru Friday.

Presho residents waiting for the meal to arrive Monday expressed their concern about losing the meals.

"I enjoy meeting here and eating together," said Marian Rasmussen.

The group named off six people who had been involved with the meals program when it started but have since passed away or moved out of the area.

ROCS pays $55 per day for the truck to deliver meals, that cost includes a salary to the driver, gas, repairs and maintenance.

"It costs $6 to just transport a meal," said Janousek. Currently, the entire price of a meal, including food, preparation, and delivery to

homes and the satellite site is $10.

Participants are asked for a donation of $4 per meal, and the state reimburses ROCS $3.61 per meal.

"We’re losing $2.39 per meal," Janousek explained.

According to Janousek senior meal programs are in trouble nationwide.

She stated that the program used to be funded at a ratio of 36/65; 35 percent local contribution to 65 per federal and state funding.

"It’s really flip-flopped. Now it’s more like 70 percent local to 30 percent federal and state," said Janousek.

The average number of participants ordering meals through the Lyman County Senior Meal program is about eight per day. Janousek estimated the average number of participates would need to double in order to continue the program.

"And, then they’d still need to hold fund raisers often to remain viable," concluded Janousek.

She stated the average age of participants in the Dakota Senior Meal program is 80 – 90 years old.

Mertens stated she is looking into some other options for meals.

"The transportation cost is just too much," said Mertens.

The Rural Office of Community Services, Inc. (ROCS) is a private, non-profit Community Action Agency located in Lake Andes, South Dakota.  ROCS was incorporated in 1981. CSBG funded programs service 20 counties including Aurora, Bon Homme, Brule, Buffalo, Charles Mix, Clay, Davison, Douglas, Gregory, Hanson, Hutchison, Jerauld, Jones, Lyman, Mellette, Sanborn, Todd, Tripp, Union and Yankton.

NewsNovember 26 2014

Posted by Lucy

Moving Day

Last Tuesday, November 18, members of the Eastern Star, l-r; Gloria Perry, Donna Cole, and Sally Garnos, started moving items from their old meeting place into the newly constructed building on Main Street, Presho.  The building, which will be home to the Eastern Star and Masons, was built with funds donated by the late Dakota Mullen Sturgis.  The building features a community room available for rent to the public.  Several businesses will set up a vendor booth in the building Thursday, December 4 for Presho’s Homespun Christmas celebration.  The Eastern Star will hold an open house and announce the name of the building at a later date.

NewsNovember 26 2014

Former students rebut CNN’s accusations against St. Joseph’s Indian School

Posted by Lucy

Former students rebut CNN’s accusations against St. Joseph’s Indian School

Hannah Baker/Chamberlain SUN

Avis Dion had mixed feelings when she watched the CNN report about St. Joseph’s Indian School on November 17.

“I was angry. I was hurt,” said Dion, who sits on the St. Joseph’s Parent Advisory Council and has had five foster children, three biological children and two grandchildren who have or still currently attend St. Joseph’s. “I didn’t feel like they told the true story at all.”

The CNN show Anderson Cooper 360 reported about St. Joseph’s Indian School during its broadcast on November 17. In the report, CNN accused St. Joseph’s of using false sob stories to trick donors into giving money to the school as part of its fundraising campaign.

Although CNN accused the stories as being false, former St. Joseph student Rozlyn Quilt, class of 2009, said the stories are true. Quilt said she herself came to St. Joseph’s after leaving behind a place she would not describe as positive.

“As sad as it may sound, those stories are very real,” said Quilt.

The stories in question are a part of a fundraising mailer the school sends out seasonally to current and potential donors. The mailer includes information about the school, a novelty dream catcher and a letter telling a story from a student’s point of view. The mailer example CNN used in its report included a letter from a student named Josh Little Bear who explains how St. Joseph’s has helped him escape a life that included an alcoholic father and a drug-abusing mother. There is a disclaimer on the letter that states the name of the student has been changed to protect the privacy of the student.

It was confirmed by the president of St. Joseph’s Indian School, Mike Tyrell, that Josh Little Bear is not a real person. However, despite what CNN reported, he said the facts in the letter are true. In an interview with the Chamberlain SUN on November 19, Tyrell said Native American students from all types of home backgrounds come to the school, some of which included alcoholic and drug addicted parents. Those stories are then used as a basis of the letters in the fundraising mailers.

“The information was taken and worked into a new letter, but the most specific spots of that letter are from one student,” said Tyrell. “Other students have also fallen prey to some of that. All of our kids come with different needs.”

Tyrell said the school regularly looks at its fundraising tools and evaluates what should and shouldn't be included in future campaigns. He said the school will most likely stop using the letters in future mailings, but that has yet to be officially decided.

According to Tyrell, CNN spent less than 24 hours in South Dakota – time he says was insufficient to get a clear picture of St. Joseph’s and the work that is done for Native American children.

Dion agreed, saying CNN should have reached out to more educated sources for input about St. Joseph’s who have direct ties to the school.

“They didn’t talk to parents. They didn’t talk to students. They came in from another state into our little world with no understanding about what St. Joe’s is and then they left,” said Dion.

St. Joseph’s is operated by the Priests of Sacred Heart, a Catholic organization. The campus includes classrooms for grades K-8, a chapel, dining hall, health center, the Atka Lakota Museum and Cultural Center, a playground, recreation center, administration offices, and on-campus housing. Teachers in the classroom not only teach the typical school subjects, but Native American culture, as well.

Quilt said she learned traditional beading and dances at St. Joseph’s – two things she is happy to pass on to her own daughter.

“Keeping traditions alive is very important and I wouldn’t have known how to do those types of things without St. Joe’s,” said Quilt.

Providing this type of facility amounts to a high dollar. The school’s 2014 Financial Report states it spent around $54.5 million. Total revenue during the same year was $62.2 million, leaving a surplus of $7.76 million. CNN reported St. Joseph’s has around $122 million “cash on hand”; however, that number is a total worth of St. Joseph’s – including the value of campus buildings, facilities, etc.

Money spent goes to managing the campus, administration fees and program costs, among other things, added together to provides its 200-some Native American students with not only an education and a place to live, but basic essentials such as clothing, toiletries, school supplies, a bed to sleep in and food to eat.

Paul Davis, another former alumnus of St. Joseph’s, said the support the school offers doesn’t stop upon graduation. He said the school has helped him out several times since he graduated.

“For a lot of programs, once you leave it you’re done and they’re done with you,” said Davis. “St. Joe’s stays with you lifelong.”

Davis said the report from CNN was an example of a “witch hunt”.

“The school will always be positive in my mind,” said David. “I’m proud I went to school there.”

NewsNovember 19 2014

Transportation Secretary visits South Dakota rail rehab project

Posted by Lucy

Clockwise from the left: State Sen. Mike Vehle, of Mitchell, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, State Rep. Jim Schaefer and Sen. John Thune speak following a press conference held at Cedar Shore Resort at Oacoma, Tuesday, Nov. 11th. Vehle and Schaefer were instrumental in securing state funding through the SD Legislature for the rail rehab project from Chamberlain west to Presho, while Sen. Thune worked with Secretary Foxx for approval of the $12.6 million TIGER grant to assist with the project. A number of dignitaries including Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Foxx and Thune toured the rehabbed rail line from Pukwana to Chamberlain prior to the press conference. Rail rehab project to Presho is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

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