Warming The Rez

As you know, SFK is part of Hearts of the Sacred Spirit, a 501c3 not for profit public charity, helping families on Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations with heat and food assistance and with the creation of community gardens so that they can grow some of their own food and become more self sufficient.

Heart’s Heating Assistance Program started October 15 and runs through March 1, 2013. This program helps with energy assistance, heating the homes of elders or families in need thus preventing hypothermia, a real threat to those living on the Rez in poorly insulated and under heated homes, shacks and trailers. Elders, homes with young children and people who suffer with chronic health problems and disabilities are given first priority. The organization has a person on each reservation who identifies those most in need, especially when funds for the program are limited. Troy Dukes, the Director of Hearts of the Sacred Spirit, has also developed a good working relationship with the utility and propane companies on each Rez.

I recently spoke to Troy about the program.  He said, “Currently we’re trying to get things started in Rosebud for heating assistance and hope to help about 20 families there. We help 40 or more families each year, the minimum propane delivery cost is $125 and only partially fills a tank and a truckload of firewood is $150 which lasts about a month. We’re able to assist a family only ONCE each heating season.” To be able to help those who need utility help, MONETARY donations are needed.

Once the cold weather sets in, Hearts also asks for donations of winter coats, hats, socks, mittens and blankets in all sizes to help keep people warm so they can survive the harsh SD winter.  SFK  donors have been helping the babies/children and their families in the Wanblee area of Pine Ridge Rez and Rosebud Rez by sending warm clothing and blankets . The Whole Heart Native Warmth Program, another group that works under Hearts of the Sacred Spirit, are also busy making warm fleece blankets for those families/elders in need.

Many families living in the “housing projects” heat their homes with propane and also use it for their gas cook stoves and water heaters. When they run out of propane not only do they have a cold home to deal with but no hot water for bathing and laundry or the use of their kitchen stove.  How long a tank of propane lasts will depend on weather conditions, if or how well the home is insulated, and the condition of windows and doors, if there are any. Others use electric heat which is very expensive. Many times during the winter, families are faced with the decision to keep the house warm or keep the lights on and if they’re lucky enough to have money for both, the temperature is kept just high enough to hopefully keep the pipes from freezing. So all those warm clothes you’ve been sending are not only used to keep them warm outdoors but also indoors!

A lot of folks living in the outlying areas use wood to heat their homes or anything else they might find that can provide fuel for the fire.  Many use candles, lanterns or flashlights for their light source. Troy has enlisted the help of people on the Rez who donate their time to cut firewood and deliver it to families in need.  Volunteers aren’t paid for their work but do receive some food for themselves and gas for their vehicles which take a beating on remote roads in poor condition.

Families on the Rez fill out an application each year in early fall, asking the tribe for help with heating assistance. The tribe receives its funding from Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program ( LIHEAP).  Help is given on a first come first served basis, if you meet the eligibility requirements. Once per winter a household can receive a heating stipend, which in past years has been about $250- $300, elders received about $500 as many have little or no income and survive on commodities.  The stipend can be used for either propane/wood or electricity, not both and only one stipend per household is allowed.  Money is not given to the individual but applied to their propane (or load of wood) bill or electric bill.  With the Federal Budget cuts to LIHEAP this year, the tribe will receive less this year.  Simply stated, for most families the assistance program will only help with energy costs for about a month. Energy costs are high as are food costs and winters in SD are long so even with this stipend, further assistance is needed.

We all know what it feels like to be cold in the winter, but all we need to do to warm up is put on a sweater or turn up the thermostat.  Imagine how hard it would be to get warm if there were no heat or electricity in your home, snow drifted in through the front door and your “window” was a piece of plastic.  Please help when you can, no contribution is too small, whether it’s a blanket, a pair of warm socks or a monetary donation for propane, your gift will help warm families on the Rez this winter and help prevent hypothermia, a real risk for those in the high risk category.

Your monetary donations can be paid thru paypal at Hearts of the Sacred Spirit website or mailed to their address listed on their home page. Warm clothing and blankets can be sent to that address as well and of course to the addresses of the programs that Sew For Kids supports. And fleece blankets can be sent to Hearts or the the Whole Heart Native Warmth program here.

Sew For Kids thanks you for your continuing support and generosity and hopes that you will consider making a monetary donation to the heating fund. Together we can help at least 40 families/elders have a warmer winter ! Some of these families may even be the ones SFK is helping!

Some of my contributions to keep families warm this winter.

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“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop were not there, I think the ocean would be less by that missing drop.” Mother Teresa

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