November is Native American Heritage month, you can read more about why it was established here and here are some ways you can celebrate the month. October proved to be a very busy month on the Rez. Bernadette’s home is now officially finished and she’s all moved in, before and after pictures are below. Bob, Jerome’s old construction friend, brought men from his company to the Rez and paid them to finish up all the things that were not completed by the group who started the project due to time constraints. Needless to say, Bernadette is ecstatic and wants to thank all of you that sent things for her new home. Hearts of the Sacred Spirit provided her a new wood stove and refrigerator. Bob and his wife Mary have formed a new 501c3 and plan to fundraise to help build a community building and to rehab local homes in need of repair. Jerome has come up with some plans for the building that would encompass the needs of the community. I’m sure it will need tweaking but it’s a start and at this stage only a dream. A community center is needed as the Kennedy Hall is often not available for events and activities and is also expensive to rent – $50 each time it’s used and then there’s the tribal politics one must deal with.
Wanblee has been working on creating a volunteer fire department, desperately needed as presently homes that have a fire usually burn to the ground. Fires are a real danger in homes without electricity using candles for light and burning wood in stoves improperly installed or in poor condition. The men found an old “fire truck”that they rehabbed and then asked around to see if anyone could help with equipment. Jerome asked an old friend, a former coach of the NY Mets, if he knew anyone who could help them. He did and two firemen from Virginia came to the Rez with equipment for the new department. They were welcomed with a special dinner and were given a star quilt which the men are taking back to display in their station. Jerome took the men for a tour of the Rez and to Bear Butte and hosted them for the week. There might be another truck for the force if all goes as planned. Jerome hopes more firemen will come visit the Rez and help educate and train the Wanblee firefighters.
The sewing circle ladies have met a few times but hope to meet more often during the long winter days ahead. They can’t meet as often as they’d like, sometimes it’s difficult to come up with the $50 fee needed to rent the building. Theresa allows women that need a sewing machine to take one home to use with the understanding it must be brought back when the group meets. She felt it didn’t make sense to have machines sitting idle when women could be busy making quilts or other items for their families at home. Some women are working on quilts, others on ribbon shirts, Theresa has made some pillows. One lady made her first blouse, although it did need quite a bit of help from the more seasoned sewers, still it was a great first attempt at a sewing project. Another sewing machine has been donated by Karen Johnson, a friend of our great supporter and talented sewer, Kerry Robertson, who told her about us. Kerry also was involved with helping with the purchase. Thank you ladies ! Batting, fabric and thread are an ongoing need for the group so if you have any extra add it to your next box going to the Rez. Jerome and Theresa have held some “fitting” days for the kids so they can come and try on the clothes we send so they get a good fit and pick out their favorite colors and styles too. These are held in their home and they make it a little extra special by serving donuts and hot chocolate or cider. Events such as this couldn’t happen without the generosity of all of you. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall and see them leaving in their new clothes?
The Woodchucks are very busy cutting wood and delivering it to those in need. Funding from LIHEAP (low energy heating assistance program) has been delayed so those who have wood stoves are using them to heat their homes until funds come in for propane. Each family needing heating assistance must apply and it’s on a first come first served basis. They receive about $250-$300 per year which helps a little but so much more is needed as winters are long and cold and homes are poorly insulated. Thankfully our SFK volunteers have been sending lots of warm coats, clothing and blankets to the kids and their families. Hearts of the Sacred Spirit, our “mother organization” is currently fundraising for propane, utility hook ups and the wood program which includes purchasing woodstoves. If you can, please consider a donation to help families stay warm this winter. Jerome has already put in two requests for propane for elders and we can assure you it won’t be the last.
Another project that might be receiving funds are community college scholarships, more news on that when we receive it. There’s also an organization that might be donating funds for two vocational scholarships, $1500 per semester for a total of four semesters. There are some students in the community who want to learn automotive, electrical and plumbing skills. I was telling Jerome and Theresa it would be great if they had a place where students could work on homework after school. With so many of the students living in overcrowded homes it must be difficult to find a quiet place to study. Jerome said there was an after school program available at the school and college students volunteer to come and help those who need it.
Halloween came and went, I didn’t dress up for the day but the kids and the families we help on the Rez sure did and they attended a party held for them on October 25th. Preparations took 3 days to complete which included decorating the Kennedy Hall, preparing the chili and fry bread and making all the booths for the carnival. There were about 15 game booths with the Woodchucks building five of them from recycled wood and other materials using the construction skills they learned from Jerome. Over 300 kids attended, mainly from Wanblee but also from across the Rez and from Rosebud Reservation. Kids dressed up in their costumes and made a procession through town so those who didn’t attend the party could join in the celebration and feel included.
The tribal president made an appearance, not just for the celebration but also to put a plug in for his campaign. Tribal council members from Rosebud who attended wanted to know how they could set up a similar event for their kids. This party as well as all the community events are possible because of many dedicated volunteers all working together. Each event they hold brings in new volunteers to help with the work load. There’s a strong community spirit brewing in Wanblee as people realize it takes the entire community, not just Jerome and Theresa, working for the common good to bring about positive changes.
Before any party begins it’s customary to say a blessing for all the people who helped make the day possible and to put up a list of donors – we’re known as Friends of the Lakota. NAHA was a big supporter of the event as they brought down several costumes for the kids and lots of Halloween decorations as you see in the photos and some stuff for prizes. The decorations are stored in the truck for next year but the kids took their costumes home. They were told to keep them in a safe place so they could bring them to the party next year and exchange for a different one. Theresa’s sister helped make cakes for the cake walk and many others helped Theresa make the chili (they used 30 lbs. of ground beef!) and fry bread. Many SFK volunteers sent in Halloween candy and trinkets that were used for the fish pond, etc. but anyone that has sent anything to the High Horse’s the past few months helped too as some of those things were given out as prizes too – such as the coats used for ring toss prizes. A Sew For Kids Volunteer provided the food for the main meal- pumpkin pies, chili ingredients and flour for the fry bread. Theresa has promised to share her bread recipe with us. The meat had to be purchased locally at a higher cost because Jerome and Theresa don’t have a freezer large enough to hold that much food.
When the storage truck gets wired for electric we may want to do a drive to raise funds for a freezer. It would be nice to have a place to keep food for parties but the main reason is for storing food to be given out to hungry families. They want to have a small pantry in the truck so they have food available when they receive calls or have people come knocking on their door for help. A freezer would allow them to take advantage of grocery sales and stock up at lower prices. Wanblee is in an isolated area many miles from the nearest grocery store so having food available in the truck would save time and money spent driving around looking for food. Kids often stop by after school looking for something to eat as they know there will be nothing to eat at home. Theresa and Jerome also feed the Woodchucks and many of the people who come to volunteer. The hope is that one of the two newly formed 501c3’s can get the High Horse’s into the food bank in Rapid City where food can be purchased for 18 cents a pound. Of course that means donations would have to be made monthly to that organization so funds would be available.
The next event for Wanblee is the Thanksgiving and Sobriety dinner scheduled for November 22nd with 300 people expected to attend. The addiction organizations on the Rez will pay for a live band and encourage those who are dealing with a drug or alcohol problem to seek help. The High Horses have asked for help with food from the organizations that help the area. They need pie filling, cranberries, instant potatoes, canned sweet potatoes/yams, cake mixes, drink mixes, tea, stuffing. If you would like to help and plan on sending a box to the Rez before the dinner just toss in something from the list. Also needed are sponsors to help purchase the following: 6 Turkeys $20-22 each, 6 Hams $12-14 each, and 3 cases of pies (12 per case) $28 each. Donations can be made through Lakota Friends Circle which are tax deductible. If you can help let us know here. NAHA does not usually bring food on their trucks and Running Strong tends to help with Christmas dinners for families in need so the High Horses are not expecting help from those groups. Here is the address for Lakota Friends Circle.
Lakota Friends Circle
c/o Anne Fields
2415 Amberbrook Lane
Grayson GA 30017
Once again Jerome and Theresa weren’t intending to have a party but the community asked them to please have one if at all possible. Sew For Kids will only commit our volunteers to officially help with the Easter and Christmas parties and let larger groups help with other events. We’re a small sewing group comprised of people of all ages but a good majority of our members are seniors living on fixed incomes or parents raising children. We don’t want to burn out our generous volunteers with constant requests for help. Some of you can and may want to do more, that’s why we’re listing the requests, we don’t expect you to donate to every need. Take care of your family first and give when you can. There may be another group joining us for next year’s Christmas celebration, the more the merrier and it lessens the burden when we all share the load.
Many of Santa’s SFK elves are busy in their workshops making things for Christmas. Our Facebook group, Sew For Kids Volunteers , Ravelry group and our Yahoo Sew For Lakota Kids group are busy making dresses, PJ’s, pillowcases (some with new pillows), quilts, craft kits, baby clothes, hats, mittens/gloves, scarves, slippers, teddy bears, dolls and softies. Some are sending games, puzzles and books too. I went to a garage sale this past weekend and got some great gifts for kids aged 3-6. I want to put a request in for some balls for the kids as they love to play soccer, basketball , football and baseball. Young children just like to throw balls which helps with developing coordination skills and girls love to skip rope. Exercise is so important for kids on the Rez, diabetes is rampant and diets not very healthy.
One of our volunteers, Cheryl Torres sent the High Horses a doll house donated by her granddaughters and she purchased the dolls to go with it. A little girl named Sophia received the doll house and was delighted to receive her Christmas gift early. In the picture she is wearing a Dress A Girl Around the World Dress , from one of our many volunteers. Toys aren’t cheap to buy so we need to find ways to make used toys seem new, presentation is key. If you find good deals and can afford it send new. For those of you reading our blog for the first time, check out this past blog to see what’s needed for the Christmas party on December 13th. Gifts for the party should be sent here after Thanksgiving but by the beginning of the first week of December. The High Horses said toys can be wrapped if you choose but should be labeled girl/boy with an age range. Clothing items should be left unwrapped as kids come in all sizes. Well that’s all the news for now, the next blog will go into more detail about the Christmas party. In the meantime Santa’s confident his elves will get their work done for the kids of Wanblee. Thanks from Sew For Kids for all you do throughout the year, not just at the holiday season. We have the best volunteers!!