The kindness of a stranger: A Cheshire man reaches out to a South Dakota community
BY KELLY ARDIS
Published: January 9, 2013 12:00AM,Midnight,
A lentil-barley chili mix created by FOOD for Lane County last year soon will be on tables in South Dakota, thanks to a Cheshire man who heard of the mix and decided to help a Native American community in need.
Tom Richmond followed news of the mix after the local nonprofit food agency started offering it in its pantries last spring. He also was keeping up on Native American issues through online blogs, which is how he heard of the Okiciyap Food Pantry in Isabel, S.D. That pantry, begun in 2010, serves the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, a community of about 250 people.
The pantry’s founder, Georgia Little Shield, died last March, but its board continues to serve the community in her honor.
Richmond figured he’d found his opportunity to help.
“I saw that they were a start-up that I could have an impact on,” he said of Okiciyap.
Although FOOD for Lane County opened its kitchen and helping hands to the cause, Richmond is funding the $2,000 project completely. No FOOD for Lane County donor dollars are being spent on the project, spokeswoman Dawn Marie Woodward said.
When Richmond approached the group a few months ago with his idea of helping the Okiciyap, he was directed to Camas Country Mill, a farm that supplies materials for FOOD for Lane County’s chili packages. The Eugene-based mill gave Richmond the same price break that FOOD for Lane County receives for its own packages. Another Eugene-based business, GloryBee Foods, supplied its Aunt Patty’s spice mix to Richmond at a similar price break.
It is not the first time Richmond has lent a helping hand to others in need, but he acknowledges that this is probably the biggest project he has spearheaded. The Isabel community is one of the poorest in the country, he said, so he wanted to help the budding food pantry there.
But his desire to help others, he contends, is actually a selfish one.
“It makes me feel good (to help),” Richmond said. “Ask the volunteers here (at FOOD for Lane County) why they do it. They’re not getting paid, they’re not getting cookies.
“You do it because it feels good.”
In a telephone interview, Okiciyap chairwoman Emily Penick said she was surprised when Richmond reached out with his offer to help. In fact, she said, it took a while for her to answer the calls she frequently received from an out-of-state number, accidently hanging up a few times. When she finally answered, she said she was excited to learn that a stranger wanted to help.
Richmond sent sample packages to the group, and it took just one taste for Penick to conclude that the product was something her community would enjoy.
“A lot of people on the reservation like chili, so I think they’ll like it,” Penick said. “We’re really grateful that (Tom’s) doing this for us.”
On Monday night, Richmond and four volunteers at FOOD for Lane County’s warehouse scooped barley and lentils into bags, added spice packets, sealed the 1-pound bags and placed the final products in a box to be shipped to the pantry.
Richmond and the other volunteers don’t have a specific deadline for the shipment. If Richmond had had his way, the South Dakota pantry would have had the packages in time for the recent winter holidays. Because of FOOD for Lane County’s busy schedule, he said, the Okiciyap pantry had to wait. Now he’s ready to send them as soon as possible.
“Every day I want to send them out,” Richmond said of the packages. “I’m hoping it’s going to be done soon.”
The volunteers finished their work for the night at 9 p.m. Monday, with about 200 of the 2,000 packages still left to fill, Woodward said. They’ll return sometime this week and send the packages shortly after that.
Woodward said she’s thrilled that the lentil-barley project is spreading. She said she’s hopeful that the community in South Dakota can create its own mix, because similar crops grow in that state.
“For us, it’s very rewarding to see something we’ve innovated here go elsewhere,” she said. “Maybe farmers there can support something like this.”