By Karen Yekel
HOT SPRINGS -- The Fall River County Community Action program is truly community in action, as volunteers and a few paid staff support the mission of the local Western South Dakota Community Action program. “People helping people” is the theme of the private, nonprofit, anti-poverty corporation, which was incorporated in 1965. A majority of the activities and programs provided are conducted by volunteers.
“The agency’s purpose is to make a positive impact upon the causes and effects of poverty,” is the mission statement. Those living in poverty are supplied with the tools and assistance necessary to help them overcome their conditions.
Locally, the Community Action team is in the Sandstar Building, 108 N. Chicago Street, in downtown Hot Springs. Volunteer “manager” Karen Montgomery-Smith is there five days a week, ensuring the community is served via the food distribution program, commodities distribution, and a tiny brick and mortar “store” where customers can select clothing, toys, household goods, and a plethora of other items too numerous to mention.
Recently, the store underwent a transformation from a hot mess into a retail appearance, with merchandise displayed in an organized fashion, clothing hung on racks by size, and a special children’s reading nook complete with a lending library. “When children come in, they are automatically drawn to this area, and spend their whole time here, even picking up after themselves when they are done,” said Montgomery-Smith.
While the majority of the store’s content costs just a dollar a bag, there are two areas that create additional revenue. The front display window contains higher-end items set up for silent auction. “This is another way of generating income for our local program,” said Montgomery-Smith, who noted that the Fall River County Community Action service is totally self-sufficient, through donations, and sales of items such as the silent auction, as well as a “boutique” section with brand-name clothing, shoes, collectible toys, jewelry, art work, glassware, and other items of value.
Noting that the city and county do not provide financial support, Montgomery-Smith said, “My philosophy is if we can be self-supporting, let their money go to someone who needs it.” She said she is very grateful to all of the volunteers who help with the store and the food programs, and those who donate money as well as their time. Volunteers are still needed, however, to help in the store three hours a week. “It can be fun,” she said, while meandering the aisles pointing out the various racks of clothing, shoes, housewares, bedding, fabric, and holiday tchotchkes. While some areas still need to be organized, the store has been thoroughly cleaned. “We’re just trying to feel our way through,” she said, noting that fall merchandise would be displayed soon, while summer clothing will be moved out. “Barb Walter takes the leftover clothing to the Pine Ridge Reservation where it is distributed,” said Montgomery-Smith.
Montgomery-Smith alluded to their new diaper distribution promotion. “Mothers can get up to 40 diapers a month,” she said. A large pile of diapers was recently donated to the local program by Volunteers of America, Mommy’s Closet program. “We would like to ask people to donate boxes of diapers for this effort,” said Montgomery-Smith, who fills the role of Vice President-Treasurer of the organization.
What can you do to help Community Action? By donating time, money, and quality goods, including diapers, to help fulfill its “people helping people” theme, and becoming somebody’s ray of sunshine. Our world, crazy as it is, is filled with good people, especially in our corner of the universe. Together we can help Community Action continue its anti-poverty campaign.
Karen Yekel/Fall River County Herald
Karen Montgomery-Smith and volunteer Joni Lockerbie with a jewelry display inside the store’s “boutique corner.”