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Operation Hope & Caring

todayJune 6, 2024 4

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The school year has come to an end, but there’s a fundraising effort working year-round to assist children in need in the Sioux Falls School District.

Everything costs something, but there are people willing to help.

Operation Hope & Caring is a partnership between Levo Credit Union and Sioux Falls Storm, fundraising for the Sioux Falls School District.

“The principals have a committee where people can apply for funding from that committee and they can apply for a large amount of funding or a small amount of funding,” Levo Credit Union vice president of marketing Jen McKeown said.

Jen McKeown is vice president of marketing for Levo Credit Union, and says the requests range from washers and dryers at the schools to socks on the kids’ feet.

“Cleveland Elementary applied to be able to buy warm socks for all of their kids last year because they noticed a lot of their kids were coming to school with holey socks or little short summer socks in the middle of the South Dakota winter,” McKeown said.

McKeown says the purchases extend beyond material items.

“Operation Hope & Caring is often used to supplement any field trip fees that might be needed and also to help the kids buy lunch when they’re on those field trips so they get to have the same experience as everyone else,” McKeown said.

“It means so much to our principals who really put this money into the best use possible so that we can impact as many kids as possible,” Sioux Falls School District community relations coordinator DeeAnn Konrad said.

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Konrad has been with the Sioux Falls School District for nearly 20 years, and says the dollars benefit the district’s ten Title 1 schools.

“Our Title 1 schools have the highest rates of free and reduced lunch students,” Konrad said.

It’s a project that got its start in 2017.

“I think that was really the impetus where our community started to become more and more aware of the needs of our schools and of our students,” Konrad said.

Operation Hope & Caring used silent auctions and golf tournaments early, but opted to change course with an event at Air Madness in Harrisburg.

“We decided we really wanted to find something that had to do with kids where other kids could participate in helping some of their classmates,” McKeown said.

Operation Hope & Caring has raised $109,000 since 2017, including a record $20,000 this past school year.

“Last year, we raised around $14,000 and years before that it was less than that, so really big jump from $14,000 to $20,000. I probably cried when I found out,” McKeown said.

“That’s the floor now so you’re going to continue to try and raise that bar, so hopefully next year we can be over $20,000,” Sioux Falls Storm head coach Andre Fields said.

Fields is head coach of the Storm, but worked in the Sioux Falls School District for four years while he was playing football.

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“I’ve been in situations where we’ve had kids who come to school without something and you can see how it affected them, so personally it was definitely something that reached out and spoke to me individually and said ‘yeah, this is something that we really want to be a part of’,” Fields said.

Fields and company only helped the cause last month, wearing Star Wars jerseys, which were auctioned and raised $3,700.

“We knew it was going to be a hit if the players enjoyed it, so once we saw the fans come in and support the jerseys and the Operation Hope & Caring Night and bring those things together, it was like ‘ok this is going to be a good night’,” Fields said.

A good night to end a great year.

“I hope that we can continue to grow this so this is something the schools can count on. I also would love for us to be able to expand to other schools because it is a need not just in Sioux Falls but also in our communities surrounding Sioux Falls,” McKeown said.

And the Sioux Falls School District appreciates every penny.

“People really care for kids in our community,” Konrad said.

A number of events will be held for Operation Hope & Caring during the 2024-25 school year, but if you’d like to donate now, click HERE.

Written by: Badlands Classic Rock

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