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SD Guard delivers winter clothing to people in need

RAPID CITY, S.D. -- Volunteer members of the South Dakota National Guard delivered about 1,000 winter clothing items statewide this week to help bring warmth to people in need this winter season.

The donated clothing, which included coats, mittens, hats, scarves and blankets, were disperse by Guard members to a variety of social service organizations in the communities in which they serve.

Soldiers and Airmen, as well as members of local communities, dropped off new and gently used items during the month of December at National Guard armories and Air Force bases located in 22 communities throughout the state.

This is the first time a winter clothing drive was coordinated by members of the SDNG.

"The response we got back was phenomenal," said Army Lt. Col. Lynn Wilson, SDNG chaplain. "People's hearts are generous and they expressed the joy they felt when gathering clothes and distributing to places within their own community. I think this drive was very successful."

One of the many organizations benefitting from the clothing drive was Working Against Violence, Inc., in Rapid City, who provides a safe haven for individuals in abusive relationships. WAVI serves nearly 2,100 people a year.

"It really means a lot," said Lisa Clendenin, WAVI operations director. "The community of Rapid City, the National Guard and the Airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base are tremendous supporters. We really rely on the community to get clothing and food."

Clendenin said that 70 percent of their clients do not stay at their shelter.

"We want to make sure that everyone has what they need for the winter," said Clendenin. "For example, if we have someone walk in to just ask a question we will make sure they leave with gloves or a hat for the cold weather."

The all-volunteer effort to collect winter clothing items, while not an official function of the National Guard, is a welcome adjunct activity showcasing volunteers' commitment to serve some of South Dakota's most needy people.

Chaplain assistant Staff Sgt. Jenna Watkins, who participated in delivering the donations to six organizations in Rapid City, felt the immediate gratification of giving to those in need.

"The positive impact this drive has was solidified for me as I saw the people who are going to benefit from the donations," said Watkins. "It feels good to know that we are helping our local community."