Chickens Helping Cultivate Relationships
July 11, 2013
In May 2008, Sioux Falls Seminary purchased the former Summit Oaks Center building near 12th Street and Summit Avenue in central Sioux Falls. The building, which used to house a Lutheran Social Services ministry, would become a place for seminary students to live, gain urban ministry experience, and aid in neighborhood revitalization. Today, residents of Sioux Falls Seminary’s Summit House continue to help bring about positive and lasting change in the Pettigrew Heights Neighborhood, which is often known for increased crime and poverty. Through hosting BBQ’s, leading prayer walks, modeling creation care via urban gardening, assisting with area after-school care programs, and more, Summit House students are beginning to form bonds and build relationships with their neighbors.
When house resident Joy Tracy began taking care of the chickens in Summit House’s backyard in the summer of 2012, she didn’t realize the impact this project would have on their neighbors. Last year, when Summit House started raising chickens, they purchased nine older hens that were already laying eggs. Not only did the hens provide fresh eggs to house residents, but they also proved to be a conversation piece with passing by neighbors and children.
Funds Make Improvements Possible
This spring, the house has continued their efforts with 6 chickens raised from birth. Thanks to the help of funds from Thrivent Financial supporters, Summit House was able to make upgrades to their chicken coop and implement a plan to involve neighborhood kids.
A new roof is helping to protect against chicken hawks, new hanging feeding trays are giving better access to food, and a new kiddy pool is providing recreation for the birds. With a more docile flock than last year, additional help has been enlisted from the neighborhood children who attend KidStop, a free neighborhood daycare and after-school care program made possible by First United Methodist Church and the Sioux Empire United Way.
Teaching about God’s Creation
“After seeing some of the neighborhood kids come to our backyard to see the chickens, I realized we had a great opportunity to teach children how to care for God’s creation,” said Tracy.
The children come to Summit House twice a week to help with chores, take care of the birds, and learn about gardening. Chores like cleaning the coop, changing the water, refilling food trays, and picking fruits and vegetables in the garden are all opportunities for the children to learn about caring for all of the things God has created on earth.
“Just because we live in a city doesn’t mean there aren’t things around us that need to be nurtured,” added Tracy. She hopes that by involving the kids in the project they will become familiar and comfortable with Summit House and see the residents as neighbors who want and can help them in difficult circumstances.
Sustaining the Project
In addition to the opportunity to learn about God’s creation and the chance to form a bond with Summit House residents, the kids will also have the first chance to purchase eggs from the Summit House brood. Proceeds from purchases by the children and other neighborhood residents will go toward buying food for the flock of chickens, which will help sustain the relationship with the KidStop children.
By keeping chickens, Sioux Falls Seminary students at Summit House are providing yet another avenue for building relationships with their neighbors, young and old, in Pettigrew Heights.