Happy Wednesday! Megan here.

Weather check: I mean, it's January in South Dakota. What do you want me to say? It's obviously cold.

Status check: We're closing in on the end of the month. How are you feeling? Did you eat too many burgers?

This week, I'll tell you about a nonprofit turning old clothes into construction materials, a tech upgrade for students with disabilities and what doctors are asking of you to prevent overwhelming hospitals as the omicron variant surges.

And now, news:

COMMUNITY

How the mission is turning clothes into shingles

Simplified: The Union Gospel Mission has a new tool to manage donated clothes that are past their usable life – a baler.

Um ... what?

You read it right. The mission is going to use the baler to compress old clothes into blocks that'll then be repurposed into shingles like the ones on your roof.

Why it matters

  • About 70,000 of pounds of clothes are donated each year to the mission, and while many of them go to clothe people who are unhoused or in need, some just aren't able to be worn again.
  • Those clothes then often end up in landfills. But mission CEO Eric Weber wants to see a more sustainable option.
  • The baler will not only provide that sustainability, but it'll also give people who rely on (or volunteer with) the mission to gain practical mechanical skills in using the baler that they can then take to future jobs.
"This is a game-changer for the mission and for the community," Weber said. "I want it to be a program that's going to be here for 20-25 years and then some."

How did this all come to be?

And what happens next?


EDUCATION

This digital record-keeping system is helping schools serve kids with disabilities

Simplified: Sioux Falls schools are moving their paper record-keeping system for students with disabilities to a new (to the district) online program called Sped Advantage.

Why it matters

  • Nearly 4,000 kids in the Sioux Falls School District receive special education services, and right now, the (not insignificant amount of) paperwork required to serve those kids is being kept in paper files.
  • The new digital system will give teachers secure, online access to student records wherever they are in the district. It'll also allow teachers to pull reports for parents on how their kids are doing in school.
  • The goal is also to save time for teachers, said Kristy Feden, director of special services. The online program will streamline their paperwork and reporting process.
"The goal is to look at efficiency," Feden told school board members Monday.

What else does this program do?

And what happens next?


SIMPLIFIED PRESENTS

How baseball field, park improvements are already paying off in Harrisburg

This is a paid piece from the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance.

Simplified: Harrisburg's city government and community foundation have been working together for years to make significant improvements to the town's Central Park. Those improvements are happening, and it's already bringing more money to town.

Tell me more

With funding help from the Harrisburg Community Foundation, big changes are coming to Central Park, including new tee-ball fields, walking trails and improvements to the main baseball field.

As a result, Harrisburg has now been selected to host the 2023 Junior Legion State Tournament.

It's a big deal for the city, said Adrienne McKeown, who serves as both the executive director for the community foundation and director of operations for the Harrisburg Baseball Association.

"The more that we can provide a place where people want to be ... when you bring people to town, they bring their money with them," McKeown said. "So it's all going to help stimulate the economy."

Why it matters

  • Park improvements have been on the radar for city officials for more than a decade. Master planning dates back to 2011, and a parks steering committee reinvigorated that work in 2017.
  • These improvements are also needed to keep up with a growing population. McKeown said there are dozens of baseball/tee-ball/softball teams in town and upwards of 600 kids playing.
  • The ball fields have long been in the park – located just north of Liberty Elementary School in the center of town – but the goal of the improvements is to both upgrade those facilities and create a park with more amenities that's about more than just baseball.
"The work Harrisburg is doing shows the value of investing in the quality of life of a community," said Jesse Fonkert, president and CEO of the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance. "These improvements will continue to pay dividends for the community."

Learn more

See a more complete list of park improvements here, including next steps and how you can get involved.


TL;DR

Super simplified stories

  • City looks to rework board overseeing events center complex. The City Council in coming weeks will decide the future of a board initially formed to oversee the Arena and Convention Center. The plan on the table is to rework it into an "Events Center Complex" board taking into account the entire area and continuing the work of the Event Center Complex Task force from a few years back.
  • Paddy's Day parade is back. After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the downtown St. Patrick's Day parade is back March 19. Register here to be a part of it.
  • Local students among winners in NASA TechRise Student Challenge. A team from Sioux Falls Christian was among the 57 winning teams selected. Winners get $1,500 to build the experiments they proposed – in this case, a "budget space based solar panel." More here.

HEALTH

Omicron is surging. Here's what overcrowded hospitals need from you right now.

Simplified: The omicron variant of the coronavirus is surging in Sioux Falls, statewide and nationally. That's leaving hospitals overcrowded and short-staffed as they battle the largest number of cases yet seen in nearly two years of this pandemic.

Protective masks, normally used for surgery, are now in use to fight the Corona Virus SARS-nCov-19.
Photo by Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

Why it matters

  • More than 11,700 people in Sioux Falls had an active COVID-19 case as of Tuesday. To put it into perspective, that's roughly 1 in every 17 people sick at one time. (Not to mention folks who have other illnesses going around like the flu or seasonal colds.)  
  • Tuesday's numbers also showed the first day-to-day drop in cases since December. Cases rose sharply the first week in January, reaching heights not yet seen in the nearly two years of the coronavirus pandemic in the city.
  • That's putting strain on hospitals, which are also battling increasing flu cases and the regular emergency room traffic such as heart attacks and strokes.
"For every patient that we discharge – or unfortunately, way too often that dies –  and opens up a bed, we are having to choose between multiple patients on who is the sickest and prioritize who can be put into that bed," Dr. David Basel, vice president of clinical quality for Avera. "And those decisions get harder each and every day."

What can I do to help?

And what happens next?


SIMPLIFIED PRESENTS

Meet Keith, Silverstar's 'super star' site manager

This is a paid piece from Silverstar Car Wash.

Simplified: Keith Burgett started working for Silverstar Car Wash in November 2019. In just nine months, he'd worked his way up to a site manager position.

Why it matters

  • In the past, Burgett said he would change jobs whenever he could find higher pay, without much regard for the work he was doing or the company he worked for. That changed when he started working for Silverstar.
  • Today, he's leading a team of people at Silverstar's 85th and Minnesota location. It's fast-paced work, and it's about a lot more than washing cars, he said.
  • In his more than two years at Silverstar, Burgett has developed skills in relationship building and customer service, and he's also learned lots of mechanical skills needed to keep the wash running.
"I feel like I'm part plumber, part electrician, part HVAC – I'm a jack of all trades at this point," Burgett said.

Q&A: Meet Keith Burgett  

More on the man Silverstar calls a "super star" here.


THIS AND THAT

Stuff to do:

  • See some livestock. The Sioux Empire Livestock Show runs all week out at the Expo Building at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds. See a full schedule of events here.
  • Learn whodunit. The Good Night Theatre Collective is putting on an original production this weekend called, "Suspect! A Murder Most Musical." Shows run 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the Washington Pavilion. Tickets here.
  • Shop 'til you drop. About a dozen boutiques in town have teamed up for a Boutique Crawl this weekend. Pick up a passport at the first boutique you visit, get stamps at each shop you stop at. Stamps = entries to win a Louis Vuitton purse or gift cards at participating boutiques. More details here.
  • Beer + Music. New local band Sun Daze is playing at Monks starting 8 p.m. Saturday.

What I'm falling for this week:

  • Donations that let thousands of kids see Schoolhouse Rock Live
  • Salsa for charity
  • Knowing that we're going straight from Burger Battle season into Girl Scout cookie season

Become a member

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Not ready to commit to a membership? That's OK! If you want to help in a smaller way, you can buy me a coffee. :)


Reach out

What story do you want to see simplified? Falling for something local? Send any news tips, attaboys, missed typos or your favorite recipes involving puff pastry to megan@sfsimplified.com.


Thank you

Thank you to Sioux Falls Simplified sponsors, including Midco, the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance, Selah Space and Silverstar Car Wash. When you support them, you're also supporting Sioux Falls Simplified.