This is Volunteer Appreciation week. We want to recognize volunteers we work with who have made a difference to the people of Pine Ridge through their crafting efforts and caring support.
Lorna Fletcher is the owner of 2 yahoo groups –Pine Ridge Elders and Pine Ridge Babies. Her grandmother taught her to crochet at the age of 12 and with that skill made blankets for her 3 children and 6 grandchildren. She became acquainted with the internet in 1986 when her mother developed ALS and needed a way to interact with the world . Lorna remembers sitting their looking at her computer thinking, ” OK I’ve got the internet, now what”. The first crochet site she found online was Bev’s Country Cottage and from there learned about all the online groups that were making handcrafted items for babies, homeless people and soldiers. She also found geneology sites and while she knew her great great grandfather was native american born in the “Dakotas” what she didn’t know was the deplorable conditions people on reservations were living in. Like many people in this country she had never heard of the conditions that exist on reservations in the US.
Lorna signed up with several groups making baby hats, slippers, hats and squares. In one organization she became a sponsor and an area coordinator for the Oglala and Porcupine districts on Pine Ridge Reservation. She said, “I called families and listened to all their needs like toilet paper, food, blankets, towels-all basic needs we take for granted, I was in shock”. I remember thinking, “I want to start a group to make blankets and other things for elders, but I’ve never done anything like this, what if I fail”? Starting an internet group was scary to Lorna but she decided to give it a try, all she could think of was elders without blankets or even a warm pair of gloves. She started her Pine Ridge Elders group in November of 2007 and along with 66 group members have sent blankets, clothing, shoes, hygiene products, food, small appliances and many other things to the reservation. They made Christmas special for a group of 30 elders in a nursing home by stuffing shoe boxes full of goodies. Two members of her group made the trip to Pine Ridge with a trailer loaded up with donations and delivered them to several areas of the reservation. Her group members have developed close friendships with each other and have taken on many challenges.
Lorna also found there was a great need for blankets, clothing and diapers for babies on the reservation. Grandparents on the rez often raise their grandchildren because parents cannot provide for their children. Sometimes kids are dropped off with no clothing, not even a diaper. Lorna saw the need and started a baby group Pine Ridge Babies and they have been sending blankets, clothing and other things to Healthy Start, Pine Ridge Hospital and visiting nurses. They recently learned of the need in Wanblee which is located about 100 miles from Pine Ridge village. Due to their relative isolation these women and children receive few of the goods or services available to the rest of the rez. Their current plan is to team with Sew For Kids and make baby bags filled with essential items for newborns and send them to the Kennedy center in Wanblee for distribution to new families.
Lorna invites anyone wishing to knit and crochet for elders and/or babies on the Rez, to discuss yarn and patterns and meet new people to join her Yahoo groups Pine Ridge Elders and Pine Ridge Babies Lorna says, “We are excited to be working together with Sew For Kids to help make a difference helping our friends on the Rez. ”
Thanks Lorna for sharing your story of how you got involved in volunteerism. You have succeeded in your efforts and many people have benefited from your charity work. I’m glad we can help each other as we work to improve conditions in the community of Wanblee. Think about how you can help needy people in your local community and join us in our efforts to help our Lakota friends. Thanks to all volunteers who give so selflessly of their time and talents to help make this world a better place for those in need.