Burke's local hospital unites community, raises money for tornado recovery
The community of Burke’s resilient recovery efforts from a devastating tornado that ravaged the small-town in early August haven’t slowed down.
Saturday night was an example of that, as community members funneled into the Burke Fire Department Hall for the annual Burke Memorial Hospital gala, showing their support for the first responders and medical professionals who played a vital role during the August 6 tornado. Traditionally held at the Burke Civic Center, the gala had to find a new location this year due to the damage the EF-1 tornado inflicted on the structure.
Rather than cancelling the event that raises anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 for the local hospital, the Burke Volunteer Fire Department opened up its fire hall. However, the proceeds from this year’s event are being allocated to Burke’s first responders, tornado recovery group and other areas in the town.
“It’s just amazing seeing how many people in the community and the surrounding area come together for this and give back. It takes the whole community to make this event happen, and without the Civic Center this year we needed a little extra help,” Burke Memorial Hospital CEO Mistie Sachtjen said. “Without having a kitchen here at the Fire Hall, we literally had community members cook their dishes at home and bring them here.”
Although the gala is an annual event, Sachtjen said this year has a deeper significance considering the town of roughly 600 people is still recovering from the tornado.
Speckled throughout the Fire Hall were several silent and live auction items that read “Burke Strong,” which was the phrase that flooded social media following the tornado. Tickets for the gala were $30 and included a full meal, appetizers, wine and beverages. In total, there were nearly 80 items that were auctioned off.
“We felt that giving the proceeds back to the first responders and the community was the right thing to do, because they are the ones who led the town back on its feet after the tornado,” she said.
Sachtjen noted every rural town in South Dakota that experiences a natural disaster like a tornado doesn't always have the ability to recover and revitalize back to full strength. As a Burke native, she is proud of how well the community has rallied post-tornado.
“When a tornado hits a small town, it can destroy it for good, and some may not be able to come back from it,” Sachtjen said. “If you look around the community now, it’s incredible how much rebuilding has already taken place.”
Marcia Broome, a former nurse and Burke native, was one of about 215 community members who attended the gala. Broome said she is grateful for the local hospital and the first responders, which is just one of the many reasons she regularly attends.
“I always love seeing everyone comes together for this, and we have a lot of pride for our town,” Broome said.