A guy, a truck, a mission

Leslie Silverman

Mike Proios is no stranger to helping his community.

Proios retired from the U.S. Post Office in 2017 and began volunteering with the Keystone Project soon after.

Spending time talking to community members, Proios sought a way to help feed the hungry in town.

“It’s tough to be poor and hungry,” he said. “That insecurity is not a good deal.”

Proios knew the Keystone Project has a commercial kitchen that they use for training at the ministry. When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, he went down to feeding South Dakota and spoke to Paul Rodriques, western operations manager, who suggested he help Keystone by picking up food in what is formerly called a retail grocery pickup.

“There are very specific guidelines to pass along retail store pickups to individuals,” Rodriques said.

Logistical factors such as the temperature of the food and the safety of the product must be filled. And while Rodriques admits there is “quite a bit involved” in the process, it helps Feeding South Dakota by “saving us from putting a truck out” and freeing up Feeding South Dakota to “resource other food needs.” Proios acts like a middleman allowing the food to stay local.

Proios began his volunteering with Feeding South Dakota by delivering food.

“I started delivering food between food drops,” he said. “Boxes were falling. I built a cage to secure them. I wasn’t able to go 60 mph on the highway because of the shrink wrap.”

Frustrated by this and the local food drop that only occurred once a month, Proios used his own money to purchase a refrigerated truck.

“One time a month doesn’t cut it. I wanted to kick it up a notch,” he said.

He found one online in Salt Lake City and purchased it in late December.

Proios plans to do weekly runs on Thursdays to Timmons Market and Walmart, and distribute food immediately to those in need.

He plans on making a weekly drop at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church across from the library in Keystone. Food distribution will begin at 11 a.m. Whatever food he has left he will bring to the Boys and Girls Club in Hill City.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, Proios sees distributing a hot meal once a week at the Keystone Project.

“Socialization is very important,” he said. “It’s a huge component to our life. People can come up to the ministry and we can offer a meal and fellowship. Break bread so to speak.”

Richard Greene, president of the Keystone Project, said, “We have a commercial kitchen. We hope that we can do that for those who need that. We have the facility and the space to do it. Our staff love doing this stuff.”

Keystone Project staff recently helped distribute food at the Keystone Senior Center. Rodriques explained procedures for distribution.

“We don’t do any more than two families per car,” he said. “And you have to have somebody present there from that second family, the amount you are told to give out is per family.”

Rodriques also instructs volunteers on proper COVID-19 protocols and general safety measures.

“These cones here are our safe zone,” he said. “Everything on this side of the cones, that’s where the people and the products are. That side of the cones, that’s the cars. We wanna keep them on that side.”

Jon Veltman, senior center board president, estimates serving up to as many as 80 families each month. This number has increased since Covid began.

“By far there’s a lot of people without jobs,” said Rodriques. “So far we are keeping up with the pace. Donations have increased.”

Still, the need for volunteers and innovators, like Proios, cannot be underestimated. Buying a truck like this is “not done every day, that’s for sure. He’s a great guy,” Rodriques said.

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