July 7, 2017 (Vermillion, SD) - A late afternoon shower may have kept some people away, but Vermillion Police Chief Matt Betzen was pleased with the turnout June 30 at a pre-Fourth of July cookout held in a community parking lot near Plum and Cherry streets.
Local police, firemen, and community volunteers in Vermillion joined forces that evening to grill some hot dogs and celebrate with Vermillion citizens. It was a chance for Vermillion citizens to meet members of the Vermillion Police Department, the Vermillion Fire/EMS Department, the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office while enjoying a picnic-style meal.
More importantly, it was an opportunity for the more vulnerable members of the community – those who may be having trouble obtaining enough groceries for a nutritious meal every day -- to better get to know individuals in Vermillion who can offer help during tough times.
The Vermillion Police Department, Vermillion Fire/EMS Department, Vermillion Food Pantry, and the Vermillion Backpack Program joined forces with Feeding South Dakota to distribute free food to those who need it from the parking lot.
While members of the police and fire departments were conversing with visitors, or helping children play games set up in the parking lot, community members helped distribute a wide array of groceries, ranging from canned items to fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat.
The chief said the part of town where the community cookout and food distribution was held, bordered by the southeast corner of the USD campus on one side, and apartments and trailer houses on the other, is a part of Vermillion with a high crime rate.
He estimated that nearly 150 people were served Friday.
“It seems like it is appropriate to try to reach out to the community in a less adversarial relationship,” the police chief said. “We partnered with Feeding South Dakota and the whole group of local organizations that brought a bunch of extra food to hand out.
“We had games set up for the kids that came, and we had a lot of families that will benefit from some extra food over the weekend.”