Local volunteer group working to meet with city officials about Memorial Park bandshell gatherings

RAPID CITY, S.D. – As mentioned previously, Rapid City leaders and a local volunteer group helping homeless residents are trying to find common ground regarding the use of the Memorial Park bandshell.

Memorial Park BandshellSince 2018, the group Oyate Kin Chante Wastepi or ‘People With Good Hearts’, have worked to help people dealing with addiction, homelessness, and other issues through Lakota teachings and holistic healing.

Keeping with their philosophy, every Friday since, co-founders Tom Whillock and Lloyd Big Crow, along with a group of volunteers, gather at the bandshell to bring large quantities of food for anyone in need.

“It’s not just a meal. We do prayer, talking circles. And we’re here to encourage people, to get people back on their feet,” co-founder Lloyd Big Crow explained. “Be a shoulder for them to lean on, advice, encouragement. We’re doing our part.”

In November, the Rapid City Parks Department contacted them about moving to a new location.

According to Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender, the gatherings are causing damage over time.

Organizers, however, say finding a new location could prove difficult.

“It blocks that northwest wind in the wintertime, it provides shade in the summertime. It’s where people have congregated for a couple hundred years already anyway,” co-founder Tom Whillock stated. “So, if we can find a better alternative, we’re ready to take it, but for right now, this is the best place for us to serve the way we’re serving.”

The City and organizers are hoping to arrange a meeting to discuss and figure out a resolution. Both are hoping that, if they do need to relocate, the new location is just as accessible.

“We need a place that provides shelter while we’re doing the meals, from wind, rain, all of the elements of the weather,” Whillock explained. “A place that’s centrally located so that the people who need it most are able to get access to it easily. And we want the support of the community.”

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