It’s been a while since our last update but judging by all the posts on our Facebook group Sew For Kids Volunteers we know members have been busy knitting, crocheting and sewing warm things for the winter season, making doll clothes and getting their dolls and other gifts ready for the holiday season.
Many SFK members have supported our projects financially and several have made trips to the Rez to personally deliver donations. Penny N made her semi-annual trip to Marty last month with supplies for her 5th grade class and toys, snacks, clothing and cleaning supplies for the Feather Store. Ramonia S also made a trip to Marty with donations of shoes, coats, and toys and stopped by Wanblee to leave a donation for Jerome’s monthly trips to Colorado to pick up food for the community. Melissa G delivered clothes, diapers , formula and miscellaneous items to Wanblee. Ramonia delivered baby formula, diapers and clothing for the Maternal and Child Health program on Rosebud Reservation. Kat B and her husband brought a load of quilts made by volunteers from her group HalfKnits and delivered them to Wanblee, the CDC office in Martin and Rosebud School and the child health program on Rosebud Reservation. Thank you all for taking the time to drive to the reservations and deliver your donations in person, it means so much to those on the receiving end and to us for representing Sew For Kids or your own group.
Sew For Kids is under the umbrella of Lakota Friends Circle (LFC) a 501c3 non profit that raises funds for programs of Native American led organizations on Pine Ridge, Rosebud and the Yankton Sioux Reservations in South Dakota. They partner with other groups, as do we, to get clothing, blankets and other essentials to areas that need them. Groups working with SFK and LFC include For The Children of Pine Ridge Reservation, Halfknits, and Pine Ridge Elders, Recently we’ve had other groups helping as well, Dolls of Hope, Recycled Rainbows and Hearts with Helping Hands. Many thanks to members of SFK and all partner groups for working together to help children and their families living on South Dakota Reservations.
Since our last blog Jerome High Horse has acquired land to build a new community center in Wanblee thanks to a very generous donor and volunteers from the community have already been busy clearing the land. The community center will also serve as a food distribution center for families living in Wanblee and the surrounding areas. People living in this area of the Rez are in a food desert, the nearest grocery store of any size is 45 miles away and large discount stores such as Walmart are over 100 miles away in Rapid City or Chadron, Nebraska. They receive either food stamps or commodities with neither being enough to adequately feed a family for an entire month so they must look for other resources when their food runs out or go hungry until the first of the month. Some do grow gardens but the growing season is short in SD and the frequent wind and hail storms can destroy an entire summer of work in a few minutes. Most of the food will be donated by “We Don’t Waste” in Colorado with occasional donations from Running Strong and NAHA. They’ll have refrigerators and freezers for meat, dairy, produce and other perishables and an area to store canned and other shelf stable food. Jerome already makes trips to Denver twice a month and brings back enough food to feed 150-200 people each time but it must be distributed immediately as there is no storage area. Lakota Friends Circle provides the funding for Jerome’s trips to Colorado made possible by your generous donations. LFC is currently looking for food grants to apply for, we hope they’ll be successful.
The new building will also have a community meeting area and space for sewing, auto mechanics, small appliance repair, laundry facilities and a children’s library. They have plenty of space for a community garden and chicken coops, we’re anxious to see the plans. Jerome has some funding promises, estimated cost to build is $170,000 for the basic structure, additional funds will be needed to develop and run the programs.
Five FEMA trailers that were previously used by workers in North Dakota oil fields were recently given to the tribe in Pine Ridge and three of those were then given to Wanblee but they were responsible for having them moved from the town of Pine Ridge about 80 miles away. With the help of many very generous donors enough funding was raised to move the trailers, add skirting and build a front and back porch. Thank you all!! Two trailers have already been moved and hopefully the third will arrive soon. Snow and recent heavy rains have delayed moving the final trailer but they’re hoping to have all three families in their new homes before winter sets in for good. We will post any needs the families have in a future blog, until then you’ve given them the best gift possible, a new home!
We really need your help getting some warm winter items to Jerome’s men who help him with construction projects, including projects for the new trailers, and the Woodchucks who cut and deliver firewood to area families. These volunteers work out in the frigid weather all winter long helping their community, they need the following:
- Insulated Coveralls – 1 Large, 1- Xl, 2- 2Xl, 1-3XL
- Winter Work Boots – 2-12M, 1-12W, 2-13M, 1-13W
- Work Gloves needed in sizes- Large, XL, 2XL
Warm gloves, hats, face masks, coats, hoodies, and thermal underwear in larger sizes can always be used if you have any to donate. Jerome and Theresa reward the men with a hot, home cooked meal after a day’s work and sometimes hold a small celebration to thank them for giving back to their community. Any help you can give these hard working men would be greatly appreciated.
The High Horses are so grateful for all the warm items that are coming in. Theresa keeps a list of all the people who call and ask for help and contacts them as soon as something comes in they can use. If the request is an emergency they will take out of their own pockets to help. Jerome and Theresa have enjoyed all the people who stopped in for a visit this summer and apologize for not always being there to welcome you. They love to meet and talk to their donors and share their culture and the work they do with them. Theresa always tells us to thank everyone for their continued support and generosity, they couldn’t do most of their work without you.
Jerome and Theresa will have a Christmas party again this year, SFK and partner groups are all working on gifts for them and our other donation areas. More information in the November blog.
Sacred Shawl Women’s Shelter
Kimmie has been busy writing grants as she does most of the time for without them the shelter wouldn’t exist. About a third of their clients need counseling and inpatient services for drug addiction but there aren’t enough beds for all the women needing help so some come to the shelter several times a week for outpatient services. Kimmie, thanks to all your generous donations, is able to give clothing and other items to women in the treatment center and to their children who stay with relatives while they receive help. Most of these children would go without school supplies and clothing as foster families don’t receive any help for the first few months of care. Your donations to the shelter touch so many lives in so many situations, you do make a difference! Children staying at the shelter with their mothers receive school supplies and clothing and attend local schools. Kimmie wants kids in school and learning, she sees education as the only chance they have to change their future.
The Sacred Shawl Society had an information booth about domestic violence at the Black Hills Pow Wow October 12. Kimmie said they had the chance to educate over 600 people that stopped by their booth for information. A special ceremony “Remember My Name, Remember My Story” honored the memory of women and children who lost their lives to family violence. Kimmie recently received a grant to teach women about sexual assault and another for helping kids with suicidal thoughts. A counselor will go to the schools and talk to students about where to go and who to call for help if they’re contemplating suicide. The help line will be open 24/7.
Kimmie was recently invited to give a talk to a SD university class about the Lakota culture. She’s been working with a professor on some of their cultural events such as the Isnati and naming ceremonies, pow wows, the sun dance, and sweat lodges. She thought she’d be speaking to a small class but when she arrived there were over 100 students there. Kimmie was happy for the opportunity to share her culture and educate others about the Lakota people.
Partner group “For The Children of PRR” recently raised over $400 from their members to replace the carpeting in the main living area of the shelter with new tile which will be more sanitary and much easier to maintain. The staff at the shelter are fastidious about making sure the center is cleaned daily and have clients do their share of the work in their living spaces. This teaches them skills they may not have and for some staying busy may help them forget, for a little while, about the trauma that brought them to the shelter. Thank you ladies for making this renovation possible!
My Space Youth Center
The kids had a fun summer swimming and being with friends at the center and are now back at school. Your donations provided back to school supplies and backpacks to those that needed them and they’re now helping kids with coats and warm clothing for winter. The garden helped feed some of the kids during the summer but the early snow finished the garden off for this year. LFC continues to provide $125 a month to purchase perishable food from the local grocery which is added to the $400 Kimmie budgets for food for the month. After school is over for the day 30-40 kids come to the shelter looking for a snack and that number can grow to over 70 on the weekends when kids don’t get much to eat at home. Kids are getting excited about Halloween and will dress up with homemade costumes.
Kimmie has applied for two grants for the youth center, one for $15,000 for this year and one for $20,000 for next year which will pay for staff and utility costs. It’s so hard for her to find funding for the day to day operating costs so we’re crossing our fingers she’ll get these grants. If she was applying for cultural grants chances are she would be funded and has been several times in the past. but she persists because she knows kids need to be in a safe place doing healthy activities. She recently got a few Lakota children’s books for the youth center’s library and hopes to add more soon. Many times Kimmie goes over to the center to read to the kids before she heads home for the day from her office at the CDC. The library was set up by SFK member Laurie A a few years ago with books she brought from home and more from other SFK donors.
Head Start Program
Well you did it! We were able to get a blanket, a stuffed animal and a book to every child in Head Start in the communities of Martin, Allen, Kyle and Wounded Knee – about 200 blankets with some left over for the younger kids that come to the shelter! Some of you sent books to the classes for class reading, the kids were so excited! The Head Start in Martin has requested hats, mittens, coats and warm clothing for winter and pants and underwear for boys and girls sizes 4T-8 who have accidents in class, there are laundry facilities in some areas which helps. Sewers can whip up a pair of pants in no time especially if you have a serger and sew assembly line style. Clothing in good, gently used condition is always welcome, underwear must be new.
Wild Horse Butte CDC
The CDC office continues to receive calls for help from the Martin area and many other areas across Pine Ridge. Someone walked in their office yesterday and said, “I don’t know how I would survive without the help you give me and my family”! Kimmie mentioned our groups and told them to write a thank you note. Your donations arrive at the CDC office and are distributed to Child Protective Services, Sacred Shawl Society’s shelter, Martin Health Clinic, the foster home, Martin area schools, Head Start, My Space Youth Center, nursing homes, rape crisis center, drug addiction center, to local mothers and their babies, elders and anyone else who calls or comes in with needs. When asked by members where to send their donations we often suggest the CDC office because of their vast outreach, something they couldn’t do without your donations. Natalie Siers extends her thanks to all of you for your continued generosity, she works tirelessly to get your donations out to those that need them.
The Emergency Foster Care Home
Unfortunately the home cannot open in their new location until they’re able to get funding for liability insurance and programs. The home they operated in Oglala was not officially approved by the state although they helped many children living in abusive homes. This foster home needed to be approved by the state in order to work with Child Protective Services and get grants with them and if they’re to build a new home on the five acres Barb has donated from her family’s land. It is now a licensed facility. In the meantime Barbara Dull Knife is looking for grants, updating policies and finishing some of the small changes needed in the home noted in the recent inspection report. They did fill the propane tank so they’ll be ready to accept kids once they’re approved and will probably need our help to fill it again once winter is in full swing. They hope to have Christmas for all the kids who’ve been in foster care but Barb doesn’t have a number yet as some of the kids are no longer in the area. More information in a future blog.
Bright Start and RST Maternal and Child Health Program
Both programs are so grateful for all the wonderful donations of baby and toddler items they’ve been receiving from SFK and partner groups. They are both busy with mom’s and their new babies and continue to educate them and help their other children. Before our groups began helping many times Mary and Sandi had nothing to offer their clients when they needed help. Members of all groups are busy working on Christmas gifts and warm items for both areas. SFK continues to send diapers, wipes and sanitary items through LFC when we have the funds. If you would like to help Mary and Sandi’s babies you can make a donation here and note in the comments box it’s for the diaper/formula fund. Thank you for helping the babies!
Marty Indian School
Students are back in school and settling in for another year of learning. Some of the children who wanted to attend Marty this year had to be turned away because they’re at full capacity. Recent flooding caused damage to some area schools so students had to be transferred to other schools while repairs are made. This year they’re incorporating Dakota language and cultural studies into their curriculum. Sewing classes haven’t started yet but they’re ready to go as soon as time allows. They’re hoping to get some of the parents to help with the program as the kids love to sew.
Marty received a math and reading grant last year which improved math scores but reading is still below average. Teachers are taking training on how to build better readers and they’re encouraging students to read every day. Older students from Marty High School come over and read to the younger students each day so they can hear a story, learn word pronunciation, sentence structure, etc. We love to hear about kids helping kids!
Some of our SFK members are room parents for grades K-5 at Marty with some of them returning for the fourth year. They help their classes with school supplies, snacks, craft supplies and other needs so teachers aren’t constantly dipping in their own pockets. Students receive breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack, if they have them, and finish the school day at 3:30, some kids go to the local Boys and Girls Club, others ride the bus home. The school applied for the fruit and veggie program grant and kids are to start receiving those snacks 2-3 times a week. These snacks have been well received in the past and kids are encouraged to eat them because food at home is commodities or convenience food that isn’t very nutritious. Kids are given talks on eating healthy, exercising and diabetes, a disease they’re at risk for as they get older. Diabetes is on the rise throughout the US and there’s an epidemic of childhood diabetes due to unhealthy food choices, being overweight and lack of exercise.
Providing snacks for 85 students will cost $38 per day. We want to supply snacks on the days they don’t get them from the school program so we’ve started a snack fund. We are applying for some food grants through LFC and the school and are trying to get some help through local groceries but until other help becomes available we want to make sure kids are fed so they can concentrate on learning and growing mentally and physically. They need more fat and protein in their diets that will stave off hunger longer than snack food. There is no kitchen in the elementary school so kids go over to the middle school to eat their meals.
Paulita said they could cook some nutritious food to give students in the afternoon if we could donate a hot plate, some pots and pans, a crockpot and kitchen utensils. An updated microwave would help as well and currently only used by the staff. We could include some dried soup mixes, macaroni and cheese, etc in our boxes that they could add beans, rice, canned veggies and meat to for a hearty soup. We would like each class to have a small refrigerator so they can store milk, cheese, hard boiled eggs, and yogurt, 3 of the 6 classes already have one. Peanut butter is not recommended as they have some kids with peanut allergies and there are no medical clinics nearby if someone has an allergic reaction which has happened in the past. Granola bars, fruit roll ups and other processed foods are fine once in a while but we want to encourage eating healthier food. Pipe dreams at the moment but we hope to make it happen and of course Christmas is coming too. There is always Santa to think about to make this happen!
Kids are using the Feather Store to buy things for themselves and their family. Each item has been increased from 10 to 20 feathers this year. Students earn feathers by demonstrating the 5 Dakota values and parents receive a matching feather that can be used in the store to buy clothing, toiletries, gift items, cleaning supplies, etc. The school has been doing a lot of laundry lately, the nurse has pitched in too. They want to make sure kid’s have clean clothing to wear if there are no laundry facilities in their home. LFC shared a grant that the school might be able to apply to get a new washer and dryer. Fortunately they have the Feather store so kids can get a change of clothing while theirs is being washed. Winter is coming and although they’ve been getting some warmer things they still need warm coats, hoodies, sweatshirts, sweaters, pants, snow pants, hats, scarves, and mittens/gloves in 5T to 16/18 or adult S/M for both genders. Winter boots are always needed in sizes 12.5 to 6Y and 7-8 adult. Jolene Arrow. the principal, mentioned that today the kids went to see the killing of a buffalo and how it is processed and how each part is used and not wasted. This is part of the cultural program they are implementing. However Jolene noted that few kids had warm coats on and need mittens and hats. They took what they could find in the Feather room to layer clothes. I have asked for a list of sizes needed but the range is 4/5t-16/18. Used in good condition is fine if it meets our donation guidelines. She recently bought some clothing racks so they can display clothing by sizes but they still need about 100 sturdy plastic hangers.
Parent-teacher conferences were this past month, unfortunately only 24 of the 85 parents attended but they’re hoping for better attendance next month. Some parents may lack transportation to the school, maybe serving a meal would be a good incentive to attend.
Kids are looking forward to Halloween and will dress up and “trick or treat” at the high school and the local community building and then come back to their classes for a party. Some room parents are sending Halloween items like crafts, books, or treats. Some classes went on a field trip to the pumpkin patch.
Thank you all who do so much to make our programs a success. Please join us on our Facebook working group, Sew For Kids Volunteers and visit Lakota Friends Circle’s page to see what other groups are doing. Donations to any of our programs can be made here, any amount gratefully accepted.
Happy Halloween and Thanks from Sew For Kids!