In Sioux Falls, S.D., New Roots Ministry, an organization partially supported by regional ministry shares through Classis Iakota of the Christian Reformed Church, provides social service and spiritual resources for people who are new to America. Operating since 2007, New Roots runs a chaplaincy program at the Smithfield Foods Inc. processing facility, where about 85% of the workforce was born outside of the United States. It also offers educational opportunities and equips new pastors through Timothy Leadership Training. More recently, New Roots has established a new driver training program. It has been running for about 18 months.
Fred Wilgenburg, director at New Roots, said getting a driver’s permit is something that many Americans take for granted, but it is an important part of integrating into a new country. It not only allows for more independence, but a driver’s license is also a critical piece of identification in accessing services and supports.
The driver training program is offered free of charge to new immigrants. There are currently seven volunteers who provide the lessons, two from First CRC in Sioux Falls.
“Many of the instructors have built lasting relationships with those they have trained,” Wilgenburg said. “It’s been a great way for us to build relationships with the students.”
Wilgenburg said that driving lessons would typically cost $300-$550 for six hours of lessons, which puts it out of reach for many of those new to the U.S. that New Roots serves.
The program’s availability has been shared by word of mouth and by referrals from the chaplains at Smithfield. To date they have successfully helped three people pass their test to get a full driver’s permit.