May of 2020 brought a fire to the Warm Welcome at Tree of Life Ministry Center in Mission, South Dakota. The fire created momentum to push ahead with the four-year plan to place all services on one site, or campus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Rosebud Reservation hard, with more than 50 percent of all people tested reporting a positive presence for the coronavirus. Most retail services are shut down. The Tree of Life Boutique and the Warm Welcome have not been open since March.
Currently, with the shutdown, Tree of Life Ministry Center is providing services outside. Twice a week food is given away. Boxes are packed with food items, people drive up, and the food is placed in the trunk or back of vehicles. Elders receive a special box delivered to their residence outside, or they set an appointment to drive up and pick up the box of food. Clothing and small household items are distributed on a request basis.
“We serve about 300-400 families a week. This past week we gave away 450 turkeys,” says Linda Garriott, who serves as the director at Tree of Life Ministry Center.
Tree of Life (TOL) operates a Thrift Store, the TOL Boutique, with clothing and small household items for sale for a nominal fee. The ministry also operates a soup kitchen called the Warm Welcome. The Warm Welcome serves a warm meal—during non-pandemic times, and distributes food and personal care items. Tree of Life also operates a construction ministry to assist residents with necessary repairs and alterations to have a safe home. The construction ministry happens with manpower from Volunteers in Mission teams.
Currently, the Warm Welcome and food pantry is at a separate location from the TOL Boutique, the warehouse for donations, and the construction warehouse.
“We are creating a one-stop-shop,” says Garriott. “Our goal and the four-year plan is to have all services on one site or location. Now people have to go to one place for the food ministry and go across the street for other services.”
The Tree of Life Boutique is located in a trailer. The trailer will become the administrative office for the Tree of Life Ministry. There are two warehouses situated next to the Tree of Life Boutique. One warehouse, a collection point for the boutique, will become the new Tree of Life Boutique. The other warehouse, which has been the collection point for the construction ministry supplies, will become a general warehouse. One side of the warehouse will be dedicated to donations to the thrift store, and the other side of the warehouse will be for construction materials.
“We have been gathering donations that get dropped off and often not sorted,” says Garriott. “Having the administrative offices and all services on one site will allow us to sort and receive donations in a more efficient, effective way.”
Next to the warehouse will be a new building, 40 x 60 square feet, that will be home to the food ministry, The Warm Welcome.
“We are almost doubling the space for The Warm Welcome. We have operated in a 20 X 20 space, and we are looking at a new space of 40 x 60 square feet. The kitchen will be commercial grade. We will be able to serve more people,” says Garriott.
The goal is to complete the new building and have all services up and running on one site by late spring of 2021. Funds are needed to make that happen. Tree of Life has three sources of funding: donations, sales from Tree of Life Boutique, and Volunteers in Mission teams. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, two of the three funding sources have been shut off, sales from the thrift store and VIM teams.
“We need the donations to make the project happen and get things finished at the new one-site campus,” Linda says. “We did get insurance money from the fire in May and also have been blessed with donations. We will need to lean on more donations.”
Tree of Life is one of the five signature Dakotas Conference mission ministries that will receive funds from Bishop Ough’s 2020 Thanksgiving Offering. Access resources for the 2020 Thanksgiving Offering.