In late March, the Lower Sioux Indian Community (LSIC) contacted Second Harvest Heartland about hosting a potential food distribution for the community.

According to Mariah Norwood, LSIC public information officer, a decision was made to temporarily close Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel, and as a result of that the community’s leadership recognized the need for food assistance among those in the community as well as the employees of the casino.

Soon after the initial contact a partnership application with Second Harvest was submitted, with a team from Jackpot Junction, including Markeela Toreen, Brian Pendleton, Mike Beranek, Jason Sommers and Anne O’Keefe, working on the specifics for the event. 

According to Norwood, when the community partnered with St. Cornelia’s and Second Harvest, it originally hoped to just meet the needs of its employees who were laid off and members of the LSIC community. When the trucks arrived, it knew they would have more than enough to share.

The distribution was then opened it to the public.

At the end they realized the need is much larger than expected. Moving forward all distributions from Second Harvest Heartland and St. Cornelia’s will be public, with hopes to provide to the surrounding area.

When the distribution wrapped up, more than 2,000 people had been served and 45,000 pounds of food was given to the public.

“Giving back to our community and surrounding community with drive through food distribution during this time while practicing social distancing guidelines is just one of the many ways we consider this event successful,” explained Norwood. “It’s also a way for community involvement. Community elders donated handmade face masks for volunteer use. It puts things into perspective seeing an entire community come together.”

There were 35 volunteers. Six hundred cars received food.

The distribution included cereal, milk, fries, chicken, oatmeal, eggs, romaine lettuce, chocolate milk, waffle mix and more.

The community also helped with the recent Ruby’s Pantry event.

“I get so overwhelmed with emotions when I think about how many families and individuals we were able to serve,” said Grace Goldtooth, Lower Sioux Indian Community council vice-president. “I’m inspired by the volunteers who put themselves at risk to help others in need. I would like to thank Markeela Toreen for coordinating with Ruby’s Pantry, St. Cornelius and Second Harvest and everyone else who helped coordinate, volunteered and helped to make these last two food drives happen.”

“It’s important that we the LSIC be good neighbors and help those in need during these difficult times,” said Brian Pendleton, Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel general manager. “We feel fortunate to be in a position to help by providing the volunteers and site for Ruby’s Pantry and Second Harvest/St Cornelia's Church for their distributions.”

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- Photo by Cassandra Walker