Winner crowned in ‘NovemBurn for Hope’ campaign

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 5:08 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - “NovemBurn for Hope” was an idea hatched by Sioux Falls City Councilor Marshall Selberg as a way to raise money and awareness for the “Operation Hope Fund.”

The friendly competition pitted several city leaders and city employees against each other in an attempt to grow the best pair of sideburns, mimicking the facial hairstyle made famous by Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum.

NovemBurn ended Wednesday at City Center, with the final judge as Police Chief Jon Thum.

“When I walked in the room, I was immediately captivated by a few pairs of the sideburns, but everybody did a great job,” Thum said.

The champion, Sioux Falls City Councilor Greg Neitzert.

“Well, it’s quite an honor,” Neitzert said. “A lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice by my family putting up with them, but otherwise it was really a lot of fun.”

More importantly than the competition, money raised through NovemBurn is going to the Operation Hope Fund, a program that has been established to help individuals struggling with mental health and/or addiction issues.

“So many people, whether it be substance abuse or mental health issues, they need help and they need it now, and sometimes finances can be a barrier,” Neitzert said.

The city council has already set aside $500,000 for the fund, and it’s all funneled through Sioux Falls’ new triage center, the Link.

“What we do is we provide sobering services, withdrawal management, as well as crisis or behavioral health management,” Link Executive Director Bill Earley said. “So, people in need can come to see us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Thum says the city of Sioux Falls has seen a record number of drug overdoses in 2021.

“It’s not something that we should hide, we should be talking about it... with each death there is a name, there is a family behind it, and again, if we’re talking about it, looking at the issue itself, then I think we’re taking a step in the right direction,” Thum said.

The hope is that initiatives like this will make a difference.

“We’re only there if people use us, right? So, we want people to come, call us, walk-in, somehow get to us, because we want to be able to provide that beacon of hope for people,” Earley said.

Organizers of NovemBurn say the total amount of money raised by the event is still being calculated. But, is expected to be announced in the coming days.

For more information about services offered at the Link, click here.

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