Revisiting Our Marty Indian School Project

The semester will soon be coming to a close at Marty Indian Elementary school which is hard to believe but it seems the older I get the faster the days and weeks whiz by!  This past week the kids were undergoing school testing and we hope they did well and that the results will be used to help teachers identify potential problem areas and work with students to develop the skills they need.

We first blogged about the school and the project here and here.  It’s the first year we’ve worked with this school which is not on Pine Ridge Reservation where most of our projects are, but on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in southeast South Dakota.  School principal, Gina Curran, is originally from Wanblee which is one of our project areas.  We’ve attempted to work with the local school there, Crazy Horse, but didn’t receive the response we needed to further the program.  Gina contacted our group for help with her elementary students because, due to their remote location, they don’t receive a lot of help from organizations such as NAHA and Running Strong which brings in school supplies, backpacks, shoes, etc.  They receive funding to operate the school through State/Federal programs and provide basic school supplies for students at the beginning of the year, but when those run out it’s difficult to find funding to replenish those needs.  We would like to congratulate Gina as she’s also recently been hired as school Superintendent and she continues to work toward her PhD in education.


The Marty program began at the beginning of this school year with the assignment of 2 volunteers per class in grades K through 5.  Room parents are volunteers from our Sew For Kids Volunteers Facebook group and/or our Yahoo group who showed interest in supporting a class for the year.  We also have many volunteers that support the school by sending school supplies, crafts, food, clothing, etc. to Gina for the classrooms or for the Feather Store.  Volunteer, Barb Reinert, helped make the Halloween party this past October a little more fun by sending costumes to the school and many others provided snacks for the kids.  Another volunteer, Christine Widman, spent many hours searching thrift stores for games and toys for the kids.  Not only do we have great sewers and crafters but world class shoppers too!

Room parents contacted their respective teachers by phone or email to determine the needs of their students.  We learned right away some of the kids needed warm blankets and pillows and that many didn’t have a bed and slept on the floor.  Many students didn’t have adequate clothing, shoes or even a backpack.  It’s not unusual to have as many as 20 people, adults and children, living in a 2-3 bedroom home on the Rez where there is a critical housing shortage.  Household numbers usually rise in the winter when family members return home from their seasonal jobs off the Rez.  Kids living in overcrowded homes are often tired and ill prepared when coming to class as living with that many people makes it hard to find a quiet spot to sleep or do homework.  We learned that some kids don’t eat as much on weekends due to food shortages at home and they could really use extra food to put in their backpacks to make it until Monday.   Teachers have budgets to pay for classroom projects but after that money’s gone they will need to dig into their own pockets or do without.   The last need we learned of was toiletries.  One of the teachers told how excited kids were to get their own personal bottle of shampoo, bar of soap and toothbrush and toothpaste.   Some of our group made and filled toiletry bags to give to students.  Unfortunately the school is currently experiencing an outbreak of head lice and had to purchase $600 in lice removal kits to distribute to families.  The school will shampoo students hair if parents request it.  Shampoo is needed as are many other toiletries. Hopefully families have hot water in which to launder kids hats, pillows, etc. to help stop the spread.

Parents don’t usually visit the school except for parent/teacher conferences but Gina is setting a goal that they come in at least once a month, she wants parents to be involved in their child’s education.  Having the Feather Store is one way of getting parents in to the school as they also receive feathers they can use to shop in the store.  Gina recently wrote, ” The students get clothes and shoes from the Feather store. The generosity from this group had really helped us to offer basic necessity items that our students and families need. We recently had a father find himself shoes in the store! He was very happy to get them! So thank you for everything this group does to help our students! ”

Before kids left for the long Thanksgiving weekend the school sent them home with warm clothing, underwear and a warm coat, if they needed one, from the Feather Store regardless if they had the feathers to buy them.  Many thanks to those of you that sent in all those warm winter items, please continue to send them through the next few months if you have them.  The school had also set aside some funds to buy food for care packages for the neediest families so they would have something to eat over the long weekend.

We also received another note from Gina in mid November,  “Hi Carol!  So this year we would like to have a special “Christmas Store” at our school.  The kids earn feathers daily for attendance, kindness, hard work, meeting goals etc… The store is a time for them to buy something special for family members. Holiday items are not the only thing we accept. Mugs, frames, unopened lotion/bubble bath, toys, cookbooks, any and all gently used items you have no use for and want to pass on! **Especially dad/brother gifts are usually in short supply. Thanks to all for past donations, the kids enjoy buying and wrapping gifts every year. Please share the message to others you know that may be interested.”

Although it was a little short notice our group responded by  helping stock the Feather Store with gift items kids could purchase for their family members.  We had a program similar to this in my Illinois community for a non-profit and we’re thinking it might be a possibility in some of our other assistance areas.  Please keep this project in mind for next year as you shop thrifts, garage sales and all those post holiday sales.  SFK member, Penny Nickols, lives north of the school a few hours and decided to deliver her donations in person.  While there, Gina gave her a tour of the school and she took some wonderful pictures that she shared with us.

The school is gearing up for their annual Christmas program.  Another generous group is donating a small gift to each student that will be given out on the 16th, which also begins their two week winter break.  Room parents are sending gifts to each of their students and some of the ones we’ve heard about are books, stuffed animals, small games, crafts, blankets, pillows, pillowcases, hats and mittens, scarves, toiletries, snacks, school supplies and even personally monogrammed towels with matching washcloth and a bar of soap from Carol Austin for the third grade class.  Thanks Carol for your thoughtful gift!

Many of the children depend on the breakfast and lunch they receive at school so Gina worries they may not have enough to eat over the holidays.  They will make food bags for the students from the donations they’ve received which isn’t a lot but at least it will help.  You have all been so generous already that we hate to ask and wouldn’t unless it was really important, but if we could all make a small  donation to Marty Indian School c/o Gina Curran we could help combat hunger over the holidays. Your gift is tax deductible, please  state it is for food for the holiday break.  The last part of the month, at any time of the year, is the hardest time for families as food stamps are running out and when kids are home and not supplemented during the day with school food, the food supply is used up even faster.  Many homes are cold and if you’re not properly dressed it takes more calories to maintain your body temperature.

Marty Indian School
c/o Gina Curran, Prinicpal
PO Box 187
Marty, SD 57361
We want to personally thank all the room parents……. Darlene Dean, DeAnne Mauk, Judy Cohen, Crystal Bowen Lawson, Janet Schnurlein, Carol Austin,  Ruthie Gruel, Diannah Perez, Virginia Uhlig, Carol Binnington,  Donna Snider, Angela Billich,  as well as those who have so generously helped all the school programs…..Christine Widman, Ruth Gates, Cynthia Dodge, Barb Reinert, Deidra Ouellette Finch Heyne, Beulah Lindberg, Marg Hrabchak, Kerry Robertson, Nancy Stillwagon, Joan Deaver and her group, Vicki Sick, Deanna Joyce Williams,  Laurie Allen, Stacy Campbell-Kraft, Brenda Budd, Penny Nickols, Judy Harig, Jill Santiago Doane, and many others.  We always fear leaving out someone that has given so generously so if you are one of those we forgot, just know it wasn’t intentional, we value each and every one of you that give of your time, talent and above all your caring hearts!

I also want to thank Kat Baacke and her group the Halfknits for making and sending warm blankets for each student in my class.  Kat and her group have sent countless numbers of afghans and blankets to the Rez, including Wanblee and the shelter in Martin.  They have been helping keep kids and their families warm on the Rez for many years.

Thank you as always  from Sew For Kids for making a difference in the lives of children.

Kids at work.


What’s Happening in Wanblee?

November’s here, too soon for us as we still have so many things to do before the holidays arrive. Sew For Kids, along with many other groups, are beginning to send gifts to Wanblee for the annual Christmas party.  With over 600 kids and 85 elders to provide for there’s still plenty of work to do and we’re confident this year will be just as successful as previous years in providing gifts for the kids. Elves have been working overtime in the doll factory to get nearly 100 dolls ready for Santa to give out to little girls. Others are busy making/buying other toys as well as warm hats, scarves, mittens and blankets to help children stay warm this winter.  We’ve heard over and over from volunteers that although they’re extremely busy they actually feel relaxed instead of stressed because they’re having so much fun dressing dolls, quilting, knitting and crocheting!  We’ll be sharing plenty of pictures and more information once our work is near completion.

Jerome High Horse recently asked if our group might be able to help a homeless father and son with some needs. The father suffers from heart failure and both he and his son are unemployed which is common on the Rez. Their days were spent wandering in search of food and a place to sleep for the night so they could get a little rest and escape the elements. While Youthworks volunteers were in Wanblee helping with projects over the summer, the plight of these two men came to their attention and some of them went home to Minnesota and found a trailer they could make into a home for the men.  They worked with the tribe to find a tract of land for the trailer which was delivered the last week of October. They’re still waiting for water and electric service but a wood stove and solar panels have been installed, an outhouse built and the tribe has provided a large container of water for them to use while they wait for a permanent water source.  Sew For Kids and the Ravelry group, “For the Children of Pine Ridge“, sent lots of wonderful things for their new home including dishes, pots and pans, linens, towels, warm items, a coffee pot, food and many other items. We’ll be sending clothing and shoes when we receive sizes from Jerome.  A very special thanks to all of you that took the time to help make this trailer into a home for these two men, they both had tears in their eyes when they saw what people had done for them.  These are the notes Jerome sent:

10-22-2016- This is a great day, they were very excited when we picked them up.

10-24-2016 – This morning David came to see us.  He expressed this is a dream, I woke up at two in the morning, wood stove was warm, made coffee, cooked deer meat and potatoes, and don’t have to worry where to go today.  This is a grace of God and a great blessing.

We thank everyone for there sponsorship, two homeless Indian people now have a home.
A big heartfelt thanks.   Jerome

Jerome recently traveled to Rapid City where he was a guest speaker at a conference meeting of the group Rocky Mountain Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (RMASFAA) who each year chooses a charity to support.  This year’s recipient was none other than Sew For Kids!  After the talk Jerome was presented with a check for $650, schools supplies and some clothing which included new winter coats. We’re so honored to have been chosen and will use the gift to help the children of Pine Ridge. Lakota Friends Circle, our umbrella organization, will be handling the funds and since hunger is such a huge issue we’ve decided to purchase a freezer for the new community building.   Having a freezer allows the center to become a local food bank and receive food deliveries directly from the Rapid City food bank.  Instead of handing out all the food as soon as it arrives, as they currently do, the freezer allows them the luxury of keeping perishable food until it’s really needed.  Currently the High Horses drive to Rapid City for pick up, make the trip back to Wanblee (200+ miles round trip), sort, box and deliver the food to recipients, all in the same day!  We still need to find funds to purchase a refrigerator but that is a project for another day. Again a BIG THANKS to RMASFAA for their generous donation!!

The Halloween party was held Saturday, October 29th at the Kennedy Hall with 150 kids and their parents attending.  They made fry bread and 40 pounds of chili in the new crock pots and electric roasters recently donated by members.  Game prizes included cereal, soda, stuffed animals, popcorn, chocolates and cake for the cake walk.  Fifty adults received door prizes.  Thanks to everyone who sent prizes or supplies for the party, you helped make the evening enjoyable for the kids.

For Thanksgiving, an outside group related to Youthworks is planning to visit Wanblee for the holiday and serve dinner to the community. Hopefully either Running Strong or the tribe will also provide a holiday food box with turkey for families in the community and surrounding areas as they’ve done in years past.  Food insecurity is common on the Rez so receiving a box of food could give families a few extra meals to eat.  Another Youthworks group from Pierce, Nebraska recently brought a truck load of warm winter clothing and furniture.  Youthworks volunteers are on the Rez from June through August each year and although they serve other areas on the Rez, many prefer to return to Wanblee as they always have fun projects to work on and have developed friendships with many of the local people.

The work on the community center continues and although not completed it’s still being used to sort and box NAHA and food deliveries for families in need.  Someone has donated a wood stove to heat the building until utilities are connected.  They could use the Kennedy Center but there’s a $50 fee for each event and they feel that money could be better spent elsewhere.  Once completed the building will provide a place to hold children and family programs, such as cooking and sewing classes, homework help, movie nights, parties, etc.  It will also contain laundry facilities, a small library, food bank, a room for sorting and storing deliveries, and provide lodging for volunteers working in the community.  They will need our help getting resources for their programs which we’ll include in next year’s projects.  Jerome is still looking for funding to complete the building and has two speaking engagements in Nebraska and one in Chicago.  If you would like to help with the building fund, please visit the Families Working Together website to make a donation.

Jerome and the Woodchucks are busy chopping and delivering wood  to needy families. This past summer they cleaned out many creek beds on farmers’s ranches that were filled with dead wood and are still busy gathering as much as they can before the winter snows arrive.    Gas money is needed to make deliveries of wood and food to those families that can’t make it into town so if you can make a small donation (no amount too small) to Lakota Friends Circle it would help ensure people aren’t hungry or cold this winter.  Distances are far on the Rez and many folks can’t afford a car or gas so depend on others to help them.  Thank you for any help you’re able to give!

If you would like to help provide Christmas gifts for children or elders please send to the High Horses at this address.  In addition to toys, warm hats, gloves, scarves, coats and blankets are always needed to make it through the cold winters on the Rez. Many homes are without heat for at least some of the winter so these things are vital for babies, children and the elderly, the most vulnerable to freezing temperatures.  Please refer to the previous blog for more information about the Christmas party.

Sew For Kids is now officially a program under the 501c3 of Lakota Friends Circle.  We’ve been working together on many joint projects over the last two years and it seemed like a good match.  We decided not to form our own 501c3 as there were other charity groups we could work with, which the IRS encourages, and we felt the money that would’ve been spent forming the charity could be better used helping people on the Rez.  Until a few weeks ago SFK was a program under Hearts of the Sacred Spirit and we want to thank director, Troy Dukes, for allowing us to be under his umbrella. Hearts does wonderful work as well and we’ll continue to advocate for funding for their programs.  Hearts, in addition to other projects, raises money to keep people warm in the winter by purchasing wood, propane, wood stoves, and paying down utility bills. They help those  in need only once each winter and assist people in Wanblee and other districts across the Rez.  Please visit their website here and make a donation if you can.  Thank you.

We can always use more help so we invite you to join us on our Yahoo group, Sew For Lakota Kids, and/or our Facebook group, Sew For Kids Volunteers. You will meet many talented and interesting people on the sites. We welcome other charities and church groups to work with as well.  Thank you all for your continuing support of kids and their families on the Rez.




Christmas, a Time Of Giving

It won’t be long before our beautiful fall weather is replaced with winter’s minus degree wind chills, howling winds and winter storm warnings.  Stores have been promoting Christmas since September and we’re already hearing about “black friday” sales.  The winter season changes things drastically for people living on the Rez.  Roads become impassable and houses are cold as people struggle to chop wood for their stoves or find the money to buy propane and pay their electric bill.  Nutritious food and warm clothing and blankets are needed to make it through the winter and are hard to come by for many.

Christmas is a time kids on the Rez look forward to each year, if they haven’t received anything special thus far, they might just get lucky and get a gift from Santa as he makes his rounds.  We support two parties every year but Christmas is a magical time for kids and the one we focus special attention on as it also happens to occur in winter when kids need our help the most.  We’re fortunate to have groups like Ravelry’s “For the Children of Pine Ridge Reservation“, Yahoo’s “Pine Ridge Elders“, Families Working Together, Lakota Friends Circle the Halfnits and Hearts of the Sacred Spirit to work with as we all try to make this celebration special for children and their families.

The  date for the party is  December 10th. Jerome is just trying to get thru the Halloween party and still needs to meet with locals that host the Parade of Lights and of course Santa to decide the time when he and his elves should arrive with their gifts and holiday cheer to the area. The party will be held in the newly constructed community building and although it won’t be fully completed, it will provide a warm place for the party.  They will be serving cookies, hot chocolate, coffee and cider.  They’re asking for donations of hot chocolate, nuts, candies, coffee and popcorn (not microwave) to make popcorn balls, which can be sent to the High Horse’s.  Kids and teens infant to age 18 will receive a gift with younger ones getting toy items and hopefully everyone getting warm hats, scarves and gloves, including elders.  SFK members are currently working on blankets and afghans to give out to those that need one, at the party. Throughout the year Theresa saves things from the trucks to make gift bags for the elders at Christmas, some years are better than others it all depends on donations.  They are expecting 85 elders this year.

They are estimating between 500 and 600 kids might attend as there are over that number in the local and surrounding schools.  We’ve asked for a breakdown of ages and gender so we can plan accordingly, but if we don’t get those numbers we’ll need to concentrate more on gender neutral gifts.  In previous years the younger kids and girls tend to get the most donations, while older boys  in the 12-18 range seem to get the least.  This year we would like the gifts wrapped or bagged with age and gender attached to the outside of the package to make sorting easier for Jerome and Theresa as they will be busy with other party preparations. Please keep your gifts simple and choose ones that can be used many times, and discourage sending battery operated toys unless they’re still playable without them.  Gifts in the $5-10 range  is what we’re aiming for and you can make or buy a reusable bag to make your own unique gift, suggestions are below:

  • Sports Equipment – soccer balls, basketballs, baseballs/mitts, jump ropes, Nerf balls, etc.
  • Arts and Crafts – drawing paper, “how to draw” books, writing journals, pencils and pens, markers, crayons, scissors, construction paper, glue, craft and jewelry kits, beads and supplies.
  • Toys – coloring/activity books, puzzles, card or board games, cars and trucks, dolls, etc.
  • Books – board books for the little ones and books for both genders up to late teens.
  • Bedding – pillows and pillow cases, blankets/quilts/afghans, sleeping bags.
  • Teens – toiletry kits containing soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc. hair items, jewelry and nail polish for girls, flashlights and manicure kits for both, baseball caps, hackey sacks for boys.
  • Accessories/clothing – warm hats, scarves, gloves or mittens, socks and underwear, pajamas.
  • Babies – Blankets, safe infant toys, board books, warm sleepers, buntings.

The age ranges are 0-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and 13 up.  We hope to have estimates for each age and gender group which we’ll post when received.  Please add your gifts to the list here so we can see what is still needed.

Kimmie Clausen, director at the Sacred Shawl Society’s shelter in Martin, is planning to invite all the families served at the shelter this past year and current families staying at the shelter for a Christmas dinner and tree trimming party where they will give small gifts to women and children to make the season special for them. Kimmie also saves some of your donations throughout the year to give out during the holidays, but small gift items for the kids are always appreciated. She will also host a party for the kids that use the My Space youth center in Martin where dinner will be served along with each guest receiving a goody bag to take home. Kimmie feels this is the best way to celebrate the holiday as there are just too many kids who use the center for each one to receive an individual gift.  There are about 15 people in the community they really worry about so they will go through donations we’ve previously sent to see what they can help them with. Your donations are critical for the continued operation of the shelter so please help them as you can and add a few fun things for the kids and anything warm to your next box if possible. Their stock of blankets to give out to clients leaving the shelter are down to four so they really need blankets for the upcoming winter season as do ALL the areas we help. Items can be sent here for both the Sacred Shawl Society and My Space Youth Center. Just mention where you want it to go. Gift giving for our newest assistance area, The Marty Indian School in Marty, SD, will be handled by room parents but donations of healthy snack food items, warm clothing (4T to 16/18), toiletries, blankets, school supplies and toys for the Feather Store are always appreciated and can be sent here.
Please send monetary donations for food to Lakota Friends Circle for the Christmas party in Wanblee, to Wild Horse Butte Community Development Center for the parties at the shelter and the youth center, state which party you wish to support if there’s a preference.  That information can be found here.
If you want to work with us to help the kids, join us here on the facebook group ,Sew For Kids Volunteers or the yahoo group, Sew for Lakota Kids.
Thanks to all our volunteers at Sew For Kids, readers of our blog and all the groups helping to make this yearly event a successful one for the kids. You are all their very “special” Santa, Ho Ho Ho!!



Brrr, Its Cold Outside!!

Well…….maybe not just yet but it soon will be, morning and evening temps are already taking a dip.  Winter weather can be a big threat to people living on the Rez in substandard housing and without adequate food and clothing to keep them warm.  Many find it difficult to find the money to pay for propane, wood or electricity and without electric they have no way to keep a pot of soup going on the stove or make hot drinks to help warm their body.  Some parents say they have trouble getting their kids out of a warm bed in the morning to get ready for school because the house is so cold.

For the next 3 months SFK will have an ongoing Warm For Winter project for the three areas we support:  Wanblee community and  surrounding areas, Marty Indian school in Marty, SD and the Martin area which includes the Sacred Shawl Society’s domestic abuse shelter and the My Space youth center.  Some of you work year round on making hats, scarves, etc. so you can start sending those things now to any of the above areas.

Blankets are a constant need and we were still getting requests for them through April of last year.  Most elders and children sleep in twin beds, if they have them, and some households will share a full or queen size family bed with the mattress directly on the floor.  There are few king size beds on the Rez and blankets that big wouldn’t be easy to launder.  Sleeping bags are great to send and can often be found at thrift stores as can blankets.  Check your closets and ask family and friends to check theirs for an extra blanket to send to the Rez.  I’m a room parent from afar at the Marty Indian School and the teacher there said many children sleep on the floor without a pillow or adequate blankets.

Winter coats are always a need on the Rez, it’s common to see children going to school in the winter wearing just a hoodie or a sweater.   The weather can be brutal in SD and kids playing outside or waiting for a bus are at risk for hypothermia. Please help keep the kids warm this winter, look in your closets, ask family and friends to check theirs, shop thrift stores or garage sales and see if you can find a few to send. Children attending school need winter coats the most as they’re the ones out in the elements during the day.  Hoodies and sweaters are also needed, if a child doesn’t have a coat these can be layered providing more warmth.

Hats and mittens/gloves are needed to retain body heat and prevent frostbite.  These can be knitted, crocheted or sewn from fleece or purchased ready made. Hats can be worn in cold houses to help keep warm and fingerless mitts keep hands warm while fingers are free to do homework, etc.  Many children have worn a pair of thin socks on their hands when they had no mittens to wear, they must make do with whatever they have.

Warm socks are also needed as many kids go to school without them because they either don’t have them or the few pairs they do have get wet and they don’t dry in time for school the next day.  Most kids don’t have boots and wear athletic type shoes in the winter, if they’re not in good condition their feet are constantly getting wet.

The two age groups we worry about besides school children are babies and elders because they have trouble maintaining their body temperature.  Babies need warm clothing, sleep sacks, hats, mittens and blankets.  For those under 1 year blankets are to be tucked in the end of the bed and under their arms to help prevent SIDS.  Elders need warm items like socks, slippers, shawls, mittens/gloves, hats  and blankets.

The Woodchucks (woodcutters) in Wanblee who work out in the winter cutting and delivering wood need warm clothing too, especially work gloves, coats, warm socks and work boots.  If you would like to help with heating assistance, Hearts of the Sacred Spirit has a great heating program that helps families with propane,  wood or partial payment of a utility bill once each winter.  How much help they can provide is determined by the number of donations they receive.  This could be a great fundraising project for churches or groups wanting to help people stay warm this winter.  LIHEAP is a government program that provides assistance once a year if households fill out an application, funds are limited so it’s on a first come first served basis.  This program starts in October and runs through March.

Winter Needs:

  • Coats, hoodies, sweaters – winter weight better but lighter can be layered.
  • Gloves, mittens, fingerless mitts, scarves, hats.
  • Boots and shoes
  • Socks and slippers – Heavier socks better for winter, slippers knit, crocheted or purchased.
  • Pajamas – fleece or flannel are warmer.
  • Warm clothing – fleece tops and pants, long underwear,  any heavier pants and shirts.
  • Shawls for elders – knit or crochet, use warm patterns.
  • Blankets, quilts, afghans – Use warm patterns if knitting or crocheting.  Sizes from baby to twin or full.
  • Sheets, pillows and pillowcases – Sizes twin, full and queen – any welcomed but flannel, jersey knit or fleece are warmer in winter.
  • Baby needs – Sleepers, sleep sacks, warm clothing, mitts, hats, blankets, use non-lacey patterns if knitting or crocheting.
  • Wanblee Woodchucks – Warm socks, long underwear, work coats and work shoes/boots, work gloves and warm hats.

These warm items are needed at all three locations but keep in mind the Marty Indian School are elementary students grades k-5 and the Woodchucks are only in the Wanblee area.  If you are sending a box to the school and have a couple of things for babies or elders include them as they can put them in the feather store or they can find someone to use them.  We’re always looking for ways to save on shipping and if you’re a one time or occasional donor please save yourself some money.  If you have some extra room in your box consider adding a few packets of instant soup, hot chocolate, tea/coffee, or any other food items that would be comforting on a cold day.  Mailing addresses can be found here.

Life is tough on the Rez, especially in winter, so lets see what we can do to make a difference to the families we serve.  If you can only help once a year, winter is the time folks need your help the most.  When the winds are howling this winter and you’re sitting in a warm house or in front of a fire sipping hot chocolate or cider think about how your gift helped make a family on the Rez warm too.  Thank you!

And also thank you to the Halfknits who have volunteered  once again to work alongside us  making some warm blankets for our latest project, the kids in Marty Indian School, in Marty SD. In the past years, Kat and her crew have helped us by sending warm items to the kids in the projects we support. Take a look at what they do here.

Photos of items made in years past by our wonderful volunteers.




Update on Our Community Projects.

School has already begun in many areas across the Rez although some parents are still registering their children and that process may go on for several weeks as they try to find clothing and school supplies.  Many kids depend on the two meals provided by the school and eat as much as they can because they know there may be slim pickings when they get home for dinner. Our group along with many other groups have provided some school supplies and clothing to get the kids off to a good start. Thanks to Donna, Carol, Deidra, Stacy, Deanna,and Beulah and others for making/purchasing school bags and pencil cases, the kids were thrilled to receive them. Dresses made by Carol A, Pat S, Angela, Kerry, Lisa ,Joan and her group, Cyrilla,and her group,and Deanna and others I have not mentioned were also a big hit with the girls and made them feel really special. Most kids will have outgrown clothing and shoes worn last year and if in decent condition will be handed down to their siblings. Several of you sent in shoes , new and used in good condition, , thank you Janet, Penny, Deidra and Crystal, Carol  etc . The kids got to try them on and choose a pair, just like they would in a store. Socks and underwear have also been sent. August and September are the months to focus on back to school needs which includes underwear, socks and shoes as well as school supplies and clothing. The needs are great so those of you still working on projects or collecting school supplies can send them at any time to any of our project areas. Now on to the news!

In the Martin community Kimmie Clausen, Director of CDC, Sacred Shawl Society and the Youth Center, identified 40 families in great need of clothing and other supplies to get their children ready for school.  Thanks to the generosity of  Sew For Kids,  Lakota Friends Circle and the Ravelry group, “For the Children of Pine Ridge Reservation” and Pine Ridge Elders, Kimmie was able to share some of the surplus of things sent to the shelter with these families so their children could start school on time. There was still plenty of clothing left to fill the needs of women and children arriving at the shelter, which is a testament to how generous our donors are. Parents submitted a list and the staff gave each child a few outfits if they had their size available.  Kimmie kept some of the school supplies you sent for the after school programs at the youth center and the rest were sent to the Martin school.

The My Space Youth Center, located in the Martin housing project,  will be open from 4 pm to 10 pm on week nights and 10 am to 10 pm on weekends.  Currently Kimmie is using volunteers from the community to staff the center when it’s open and pays them a token $25 a day for their time, but she is applying for grants so she can hire a youth center program coordinator which will make her life a lot easier. After school is over kids can come to the youth center for a snack and then get help finishing their homework provided by college tutors needing to earn community service hours. Having access to the internet, thanks to Kimmie’s efforts and the grantor, will certainly simplify the homework process.  Kids having a place to go with electricity and heat is a plus for those living in rural areas or in homes where bills haven’t been paid, they won’t have to work under a lantern or candle or crawl into bed early just to keep warm in a cold house. After homework is finished kids will each spend an hour reading or having someone read to them. Thanks to Laurie Allen, 3 bookcases recently made their way to the youth center and books from various donors soon followed. More are always a need. Someone in the community donated a theater quality popcorn machine so the kids can eat a healthy snack while they read or hang out. They have enough popcorn for now thanks to some generous donations but buying the oil has been an expense they really can’t afford. Barb Reinert came to their rescue and sent enough popcorn oil to last for a while and she also sent 2 waffle irons which can be used to make sandwiches and other things too. Thanks Barb, Kimmie can’t wait to try them out!  The center recently received a new cook stove thanks to the efforts of Anne, Irene, Karen and Carol, now they can have a hot meal ready for the kids and they can also teach them to cook and bake as well. Some of the kids have already been baking cookies to share with everyone in the center. We might want to think about making some aprons in the future to keep those school clothes clean. Kimmie asked the kids what they wanted her to prepare for the first meal on their new stove and the decision was unanimous, spaghetti and meatballs!  Generous donors in our groups have sent plates, cups, cutlery, cooking utensils, pots and pans, a coffee pot and coffee, food, paper products, and the list goes on.  Thank you all for helping make the center an inviting place for the kids. Kimmie is attending a required conference this week, but when she returns she’ll be taking an inventory of the youth center to see if anything is still needed.

The shelter has been busy and Kimmie finally, after many months of untold stress, has received her first 3 month installment from the Department of Justice grant they were awarded which totals $475,000 over the next three years. The funds were tied up in the tribal Department of Public Safety and Kimmie has requested a monthly meeting with officials so this funding issue, that almost closed down the shelter, doesn’t happen again. They desperately need to keep the shelter open as this is the only shelter for domestic abuse/rape on Pine Ridge Reservation. While receiving this grant is a blessing, $125,000 per year still isn’t enough to run the shelter, $200,000 is needed to cover basic operational costs each year. They’re hoping to get a $100,000 grant from NOVA but that will take a while. The only reason the shelter has been able to remain open is the receipt of a some smaller grants in the $5-10,000 range and all the generous donations of everything from food and clothing to cleaning supplies that you’ve sent in, for which there is no budget. Kimmie is so thankful to each and every one of you who has helped make the shelter a reality and for all your efforts to ensure that it stayed open.

One of the big expenses for them has been travel expenses (gas), getting women and children to the shelter from violent homes, to court appointments, to Rapid City for documents, making food pick ups in Rapid City, etc. Staffing is another expense and they really need to hire another person so Kimmie doesn’t have to cover weekends at the shelter.  Food is another major expense, despite getting food from the food bank in Rapid City at 18 cents a pound, they still have to drive 2 hours to pick it up and not everything can be purchased there.  Food items such as eggs, milk and bread still have to be purchased at local stores in Martin.  They’re feeding the shelter residents and the kids at the youth center where as many as 60 hungry kids can show up, so they’re struggling a bit to cover that cost. Fortunately the school breakfast and lunch programs are functioning again so an afternoon snack is all they need to provide on week nights, the weekends are a different story.

Kimmie has been delighted to receive office supplies from Diannah Perez and the company she works for. Those supplies have been split between the youth center, the CDC and the shelter and has saved them about $250. A Big thanks to Diannah and her employer for that gift!  Dolls, doll clothes and doll furniture have been sent to the shelter thanks to Penny Nickols, Kerry Robertson, Ruth Gates, Deanna Williams, Jill Santiago and many others.  Much needed baby items continue to come in and a special thanks to Christine Widman who sent a 52 lb. box of goodies for babies 0-2 years this past week, great not only for the shelter but also the clinic and Bright Start program. The shelter has used a lot of diapers lately and thankfully have received donations to restock the smaller sizes. The last several kids wore size 5 diapers so they need that size replaced. The shelter has joined the Jet program but they don’t have a credit card (due to the uncertainty of funds) so for now can’t order through them.  They do use cloth diapers but still need to have some disposables on hand when things get hectic at the shelter or kids head off with their parents for appointments. If you wish to donate diapers to the shelter you can send them here or can send money to the Sacred Sacred Shawl Society for that expense.

Women who arrive at the shelter with their children are required to send them to school if they’re going to be there more than a few days. Buses from all over the Rez will pick them up and take them to the school they’re registered in. This helps keep the noise  and activity level down and saves on food costs at the shelter and also provides a normal routine for kids coming from abusive homes. Kids being in school also allows time for staff  to work with women who need to get to court, go to parenting or conflict resolution classes, to the clinic if they have health issues, and to work on housing options when they’re ready to leave the shelter.

Back to school time for kids in Wanblee means going to their local school, Crazy Horse, or traveling to  schools in Kadoka or Kyle.  Jerome and Theresa made a trip to Manderson to pick up shoes, backpacks, school supplies and other items from Running Strong and while there received a call from the food bank in Rapid City to come and pick up a shipment of free food.  Lakota Friends Circle paid for transportation costs using money from a $1500 food grant Director Anne Fields had won from Walmart at the beginning of summer.  The grant also provided monies to feed over 120 elders a nutritious breakfast at the local Pow Wow.  Additional school supplies for kids have been donated by NAHA. Many of our members sent clothing and school supplies to Wanblee so the kids would be ready for school

Lakota Friends Circle is looking at possible fundraisers to help purchase freezers and refrigerators for the community center when completed.  Once the building is enclosed and they have the appliances in place, the food bank will deliver the food to the center  saving the traveling time and expense of picking it up in Rapid City. This setup would allow them to keep food in storage for those needing it later in the month and also gives them the luxury of delivering food to individual homes the next day instead of the same day they pick it up as is being done now. Some of our donors have sent many other things they thought could be used for the programs that will be held in the community center once finished.  Jerome and Theresa High Horse no longer have tenants in their basement so they do have room now for  some storage. Blankets, warm clothing and other necessities for winter should not be sent just yet and please don’t send Christmas gifts unless you have no space to store them in your home as there is no guarantee they will be there when the season arrives. They are still experiencing warm weather on the Rez so spring and summer clothing can still be used for a month or more. Kids attending Crazy Horse school in Wanblee have access to a swimming pool so swimsuits and towels are welcome.  Kids can swim in the pool on weekends with family members and also after tutoring sessions during the week.

Youthworks volunteers have gone home until next year, the teens had a great time and were very helpful to Jerome and the community. After many issues with electrical installation, sewer and plumbing, framing is now in the process of being built for the community center and hopefully they’ll have the building enclosed by late September or early October before the snows come. Thanks to the donation from Mary and Bob Epps from Families Working Together, they will have the building structure in place. They have a contractor doing the outside work but Jerome is looking for volunteers to help with the inside construction to save money. Once the center is up,  programs will be planned and they will need supplies for the soup kitchen, sewing center, tutoring program, and sports equipment and games for entertainment. They are still seeking grants and donations to finish the inside work. If you want to donate to the build, you can send money to Families Working Together.  If you wish to make a donation towards future fridges and freezers,  you can send money to Lakota Friends Circle.  Both organizations are a 501 c3 non profit so donations are tax dedcutible. Please indicate what you want the money used for. Here are some photos that Jerome took of the building site.

Our  elementary school project in Marty, SD got off to a good start.  Our group has been making or purchasing school clothing and many other things to get the kids ready for school which began August 22. School principal, Gina Curran, moved a new shelf into the Feather Room  to hold all the new donations coming in. Thank you Laurie Allen for sending storage bins to the school to hold all the surplus. Clothing arrived and all the girls in the 4th grade class received a new home sewn outfit of a skirt and top, they were amazed that someone actually made them. Room parents (SFK volunteers) have been set up for kindergarten through 5th grade with 2 members helping in each class and plenty of others waiting in the wings to help if needed. They will be helping with school supplies, snacks, toiletries, books, special class project needs and some fun things for holiday class parties. We’ll be posting news from each class and the projects they’re working on so we can all share in this new experience for Sew For Kids. Gina Curran told us about a Kindergarten student they found crying in school and when asked why he was so upset, he said because he was still hungry even though they had just finished lunch. Once again our generous SFK members  to the rescue, they had some snacks recently sent in by you so were able to give him a little something extra to get him through the rest of the day. Many children experience food shortages at home so nutritious snacks that can be kept in the classroom or sent home with children at risk are always needed. Students needing help can go to the local Boys and Girls Club after school and receive tutoring from two teachers provided by the school.  Summer school is also held there with teachers provided by the school. Here are some photos provided by Gina Curran.

Well now you’re all up to date with the news from the Rez and the Marty Indian School.  We have so many talented people on our site to thank and so many generous people who have supplied the other needs that sewing just can’t take care of. We’ll be sharing more about these wonderful people in our next blog.  Please join us on our  very active Sew For Kids Volunteers Facebook group, or our Sew for Lakota Kids Yahoo group.















Marty Indian School Part 2

As mentioned in the last blog Marty Indian school has a room they’ve turned into the “Feather Store”.  It’s not made of feathers nor does it house birds but instead is a place where students come to “buy” school supplies, shoes, toys, etc. using feathers for currency.  They earn feathers by displaying the four Dakota values of Courage, Generosity, Wisdom and Bravery.  Gina Curran, school principal, explains further.

“The Feather Store is stocked with basic school supplies, donated toys, etc. Children earn a feather for displaying the Dakota values and their parent also earns a matching feather. They can then go to the Feather Store and use their feathers to purchase shoes, school supplies, toys, clothes, and so on.  Parents can also go to the store and spend their feathers on care packages (dish rag, soap, tooth paste, tooth brushes, combs, feminine hygiene items), t-shirts, backpacks, etc.” They prefer to have kids earn some of the things they need/want instead of just handing things out  We applaud Gina and the school for implementing this program which gives people a hand up, not a hand out.

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New toys or in gently used condition are needed.  They may include coloring books, crayons, puzzles, games, Lego type blocks, cars, trucks, sports items, stuffies, dolls, backpacks and pencil cases filled or empty, craft items, etc.  Battery operated toys aren’t the best choice since they probably don’t have the money to replace them, exceptions would be toys that are still “playable” without batteries.   Since there’s a feather value assigned to each item in the store,depending on what they want, may require kids to save their feathers which in turn teaches them patience and the value of saving money. We’re leaving the choice of what to send up to you, the experts, you’ve always done such a marvelous job on all our projects and know you will on this one as well.

Gina also wants to start a “Sponsor a Classroom” program so classes can get items they need and maybe kids can receive a special treat on holidays. Volunteers would essentially be virtual classroom parents.  Gina says she will make sure there is communication between teachers and their classroom sponsors.  They’re currently trying to encourage all parents to attend their child’s student-teacher evaluation.  Reading through some of the classroom notes to parents   it looks like a few classes reached that goal and others nearly reached it.

There are 6 classrooms, grades K-5 with a total of 95 students.   If we get at least 2-4 sponsors per class we’ll work with Gina setting it up. We don’t have the numbers of each class or genders (there are more boys) but will get further information if enough of our members are interested.  I was a room parent for a year in the kindergarten class of Our Lady Of Lourdes School on Pine Ridge Reservation and had the best time filling needs that were missing in the classroom. For Christmas I asked each of my neighbors to fill a stocking I had made for each child, they were very generous and all of us had the best Christmas that year. The teacher was so thankful she could make her student’s experience in Kindergarten a good one, as it should be. If you would like to help in the classrooms please contact us here  or here.

Other needs for the classroom are nutritious snacks that teachers can keep in their rooms for kids who are hungry, especially the ones they know will not be getting dinner that night.  Kids are very active and rapidly growing and although most eat the two meals served at school, they sometimes need a morning or afternoon snack. Presently the Special Ed teacher is buying snacks using her own money which isn’t always possible  At Crazy Horse School in Wanblee, and probably others across the Rez, kids eat more on Friday and Monday because there may not be adequate food at home.  Food is more plentiful at the beginning of the month when families get their food stamps but supplies dwindle as the end of the month approaches and kids go hungry. The school will send home lunch leftovers for those who are the neediest. Having a backpack would again help protect kids privacy as they take home food or other items to help them.

Another way you can help the school is by collecting and sending box tops to the school to support the “Boxtops for Education  Program.  They also collect metal pull tabs from beverage cans  and other cans and send them to the state at the end of the year to earn credit for their school. Please get your friends and family involved in these collections, it costs nothing and you’re just simply cutting box tops off or saving tabs from products you already buy and it can make a big difference to the school.

If you would like to help us with the feather program, sending nutritious snacks, or the boxtop program, for the school please send items to this address:

Via FedEx or UPS

Marty Indian School

c/o Gina Curran, Principal

100 S Main St

Marty, SD 57361

Via Post Office

Marty Indian School

c/o Gina Curran, Principal

Po Box 187

Marty , SD 57361

Please enclosed a SASE  if you want a response back so there will be no mailing expense for the school. We are developing a form you can use to have sent back to you to verify your donation and will share it with you on our facebook page once it is completed. We will be sending some to the school along with the some envelopes and stamps for those who forget to send them. The school is a  501c3 non-profit so your gift should qualify as a charitable tax deduction but always check with your accountant. Since the school is considered a “business”, don’t forget to check the “This is a business” box if you’re preparing your Fedex or UPS shipment online or tell the clerk if using a shipping store. The rates are cheaper than sending to a personal address. You can also require a signature so you know your package was received.

Education is the key to a successful future for kids, so lets support that effort by helping with the resources they need to keep them moving forward!

Please join us on our Sew For Kids Volunteer site  or our Sew For Lakota Kids Yahoo group. Thanks as always from Sew For Kids. Continue reading

A New Project , Just in Time For School

Back to school time is just around the corner, actually beginning in the next two to three weeks depending on the school district.  Kids will be excited to see friends, share summer news, meet their new teachers and begin a new year of studying and learning to help them achieve their goals and dreams.  Many of them will be looking forward to the two meals, breakfast and lunch, served at school which many may not have received at home over the summer. If kids live near a school or attended summer classes, the summer food program was available to them if they chose to use it.

At the end of the last school year we were approached by the principal of Marty Indian School for our help.  The principal, Gina Curran, searched the web for groups that might be able to help her 95 K through 5 students and found us! Gina grew up in Wanblee SD,  one of the areas we help, and at one time was principal of their local school, Crazy Horse. Marty Indian School is located about 240 miles east of PRR near the Nebraska border and on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, members are Western Dakota and part of the Great Sioux Nation.  This area is even more isolated  than PRR and the students receive few outside donations mainly because of their location and not being a well known school.  Their location also makes it difficult to attract and keep teachers long term. There are two housing projects in the area and is where most of the elementary students live.  Students in middle school and high school receive room and board at the school and come from the local reservation as well as other reservations (including PR) across SD.


When I mentioned the school to Jerome High Horse he sang the praises of Gina having known her as one of their local kids and the Marty School too as he had relatives that attended there and visited there many times himself.  With Jerome’s enthusiastic  recommendation and after speaking to Gina, hearing that she really wanted to make a difference in the lives of the kids she was responsible for, we were getting very excited.  She was asking for basic needs for her students, needs in our opinion every child should be entitled to!  The deal was sealed when Anne Fields, Director of Lakota Friends Circle, was on her way home to Georgia after an eight week stay in Pine Ridge and decided to get off the beaten path and maybe even visit the school and say hello to Gina if she had time.   Fate intervened, Anne hit a deer at dusk just outside of town and had to be towed to a local motel.  The car couldn’t be repaired for three days so Anne called Gina and along with Gina’s husband (also a teacher at the school) drove her to all the places she needed to go and gave her a tour of the school.  Anne was quite impressed with the school and with Gina and her husband and their willingness to show her around not to mention their generous help in her time of need.  Anne felt this would be a great place to help and a great fit for our group.  We are adding the Marty Indian School to our projects which also includes Wanblee Community projects, Sacred Shawl Society’s domestic abuse shelter for women and their children and the My Space Youth Center in Martin, SD.  Please read our past blogs to find out more about these programs.


Classes begin at the school on August 19 but Gina and her teachers are already back preparing for the students arrival.  The school receives government funds to purchase school supplies for students so they buy pencils, crayons, glue sticks and all the notebooks they’ll need for the year.  What they need is a constant restocking of pencils, crayons, glue sticks (Elmer’s in a bottle if mailing in hot weather) as well as dry erase markers for their boards which is a big expense.  Library books for the K -5 level and higher are also needed.  While they’re fortunate to have a great library, kids take books home, some of them are never returned and parents can’t afford to replace them.  So books are needed  for the library, for kids home libraries and for the reading room boarding students (grades 6-12) use when the library is closed.  Gina said 30% of their  grade 4 students in elementary school are reading at that level and above so they want to maintain that and move others ahead. Unfortunately, by 9th grade 80% of students are only reading at the grade 5 level, something they hope to change with a grant they received to increase their reading proficiency. The bottom line is BOOKS are needed for all grades!

School Needs

  • Pencils, erasers
  • Crayons
  • Glue sticks or bottled glue if shipping in hot weather
  • Dry erase markers for teacher’s boards
  • Books for all ages K-12

Many children don’t have adequate clothing so the school has added a washing machine to the nurse’s room so she can wash a child’s clothing that has been worn for a week or more.  They need clothing in all sizes to give out to those that need more and to have on hand to dress the student in while theirs is being laundered.  A sink has been installed in the “Feather” room (see next blog) so kids can wash their hair.  Many students will get lice so teacher’s aides will treat them with the appropriate medicine and then comb their hair with a special fine toothed comb to remove nits (lice eggs), the process takes two weeks to make sure they’re gone.  Kids lack many of the basic hygiene items needed to keep themselves clean, they might have running water if the utility bill has been paid which may not happen in the colder months when a decision must be made to pay the electric bill or buy propane for heat.  The school likes to fill small Ziploc bags with hotel size shampoo, wash cloth, bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and a comb to hand out to kids they think need them, parents can receive one too.  The bags are kept small to be discrete since kids don’t have pencil cases and backpacks to hide them in.  Helping kids maintain their dignity is important to the school but it’s also very important to our group.  They don’t always have the resources on hand to make these toiletry bags so they depend on donations from people like you.

Clothing and Toiletry Needs 

  • Jeans and pants
  • T shirts and shirts, long and short sleeved
  • Hoodies and sweaters
  • Dresses and skirts
  • Socks and underwear (especially small sizes, they’re still accident prone)
  • Mittens, gloves, scarves, hats
  • Coats and jackets
  • Pj’s and slippers
  • Shoes (huge need!) and boots
  • Hotel size shampoo and conditioner
  • Washcloths
  • Ziploc bags (probably quart size)
  • Comb and/or small brush
  • Toothbrush and small toothpaste

Many kids come to school in just a sweater, even in winter so a warm coat would be greatly appreciated.  Last year the upper grades received a donation of coats from an organization, unfortunately most of them were too small but they did fit the younger kids who were most appreciative of their misfortune.  Pj’s and slippers are something kids don’t usually receive along with pillows and pillowcases.  Blankets are always needed and of course sheets, towels and washcloths. We would prefer to send new pillows but everything else can be in gently used condition.

Linens/Bedding Needs

  • Pillows (new) and pillowcases
  • Blankets, quilts, afghans
  • Sheets, twin, full and queen
  • Towels and washcloths

Shoes are a BIG need, now where have we heard that before?  Children receive a new pair of shoes at the end of the school year from the company “TOMS”.   When the new school year begins many kids will be wearing those same shoes that have been worn outside all summer and many will be in terrible condition or outgrown.  Last year Gina remembers supergluing the sole of a student’s shoes that had come apart so they could wear them a little longer.  Kids can wear used shoes in good condition,  new shoes are always a treat, but better to have some protection on the feet than none.  Just like the dirty or worn out clothing, if the school has extra shoes on hand to give out to those that need them, they feel they can make a difference to the child and not draw attention to them as being poor.  The goal is to make kids feel good about themselves and build self esteem.

Since there’s more information to share and this blog is getting long, part two will follow with more information.  There’s plenty of info for you to chew on here and help you get started on the needs.  A special shout out to all the wonderful seamstresses at Dress A Girl, can you help us out with clothing for boys and girls?? Thanks to every one of our members of SFK!!!