Success Stories

Wood For Fenton

Photo of Fenton, laughing and smiling. Fenton had just turned 73-years-old when we visited him on the Rosebud Reservation.

Fenton had just turned 73-years-old when we visited his remote home located in the upper northwest corner of the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Black Pipe, a small tribal community, was tucked up against the borders of Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservation. Fenton explained his community was actually called “Red Leaf” and was one of the original traditional communities of Rosebud.

Fenton was one of the Elders who would receive Winter Fuel this year. He preferred wood over electric heat, since a winter storm in 2008 took out many electric poles in Rosebud communities and some were left without electricity for a couple of weeks.

If the winters weren’t enough, Fenton lost his home to a fire. He told us, “The tribe bought me this trailer house. I had another one, but it burned down.” Fenton depicted the experience that smoky night when he grabbed one thing before evacuating his home. He explained, “I laid down on the bed and got up. Then I saw the smoke — I looked down the hallway and it was black. I grabbed my cap and ran out the door. I went to my nephews and he called the fireman. They came out, but it was all burned up.”

A photo of Fenton's heater. A small kerosene heater sat near Fenton's kitchen table.

Fenton was grateful to his nephew and one of his friends “around my age” who helped him out. His nephew was generous with his time and replaced many of the household items lost in the fire. A recent gift, a twin mattress, leaned against Fenton’s couch waiting to be relocated to his bedroom. A small kerosene heater sat near the kitchen table. His friend even gifted him a vehicle. Fenton gratefully said, “He bought me a car — he gave me this one!”

Debilitating winters are a mainstay in South Dakota. This season, the cold snap arrived on Halloween, having even the most seasoned trick-or-treaters questioning their candy collection as they faced a bone-chilling 12 degrees! Then, November brought some snow showers. December, not wanting to be outdone, ushered 2017 out with a “high” of 8 BELOW and a “low” of 20 BELOW — which didn’t even factor in the wind chill. This type of weather demanded not only a cozy fire, but a frequently fed one to keep a home and its inhabitants warm.

Fenton, entering his un-weatherized home. Fenton's home was exposed to all the elements the Northern Plains brought — a makeshift wind deflector on his front door was clearly visible.

Fenton’s trailer was exposed to all the elements the Northern Plains brought. His front door had what appeared to be a makeshift wind deflector, which was obviously an attempt to keep the cold wind from blowing directly inside.

His windows were not energy saving or efficient — no screens, no storm windows, and no weatherization. His wood stove was tucked in the corner of his living room near the window and a small pile of wood, courtesy of his nephew, was at his disposal for the time being.

Fenton didn’t have a stack of wood outside — yet. But PWNA partnership with the Rosebud Elderly Caregivers program would change that. Fenton would be one of the many recipients of PWNA’s Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) Winter Fuel service.

Fenton has benefitted from NPRA’s Breakfast-in-a-Bag service for over ten years. He was very thankful to be on the list to receive wood as part of our outreach in his rural community.