Its been a while since our last blog mainly because I’ve been busy here in CA with local charity projects and have been waiting until there were more definite Christmas plans to post. Jerome and crew have been busy with the Halloween party and other projects so was glad to finally connect with them as Christmas is rapidly approaching. We’re hoping they receive other help as our small group can’t possibly supply everything needed for the 500+ kids attending the party. SFK “elves” haven’t been sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for info, they’ve been busy sewing clothes and quilts for the 80+ dolls heading to the Rez, making match games, play mats, tutus, hats and scarves, PJ’s, and putting together gift bags for boys and girls and some of the older kids filled with goodies.
The Halloween party was held Saturday night with 300 kids and 100 adults attending. They had plenty of food from the locals and groups that help the area. Kids dressed up in costumes that came in on the trucks or whatever they could put together from home. Pillows and pillowcases were given out to those who hadn’t received them in the past, Theresa said some of them were so happy to get one they immediately snuggled up with it. Thanks to everyone who sent pillows and pillowcases for the drive, kids always love getting them.
The home rehab project for the two veterans we told you about in the last blog has been finished. This project was a group effort starting with the grant written by Anne Fields from Lakota Friend’s Circle, Home Depot for the supplies through the grant, Bob and Mary Epps from Families working Together, volunteers from MN and the local community including the High Horse’s. The men are overjoyed with their newly repaired home and are still finding it hard to believe that complete strangers would come together and help them. Others in the community heard about the work and are asking to have their homes repaired too, which could be accomplished if more funding becomes available.
Theresa spent the last few days submitting 188 energy assistance forms to the tribal LIHEAP program that helps families get through the winter, usually a $250 allotment and a little more for the elders. It’s not a lot but helps, they can use the money for wood, propane or utilities. Energy costs are down and a family can now get a propane delivery of $125 instead of the $200 required last year which was hard for most families to come up with. This will also help Hearts of the Sacred Spirit (our “mother” group) with their heating program allowing them to help more families with the reduced costs. Please check out their energy program and give if you can, they help on Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations.
Cold weather has already made it’s arrival on the Rez and the time for making and sending warm coats and winter gear is NOW! Coats, gloves/mittens, hats, scarves/gaiters, warm clothing, blankets/afghans, socks and boots in all sizes are needed in Wanblee and at the shelter to make it through the frigid days ahead. Babies and toddlers need warm clothing, sleep sacks, sleepers, PJ’s, blankets, sweaters, hats, and socks. Most of us have plenty of socks and since they’re relatively cheap we probably can’t imagine people not having them. I just read the one item homeless shelters never get enough of are socks and can attest to that as I see the homeless here in southern California sitting on the sidewalk with bare feet. While we don’t have the severe cold of SD it’s still too cold for bare feet in the morning and winter months.
The shelter is ready to open! The paperwork has been completed, the bank account opened with monies received from the grants, positions have been or are currently being filled, and safety inspections and repairs are completed. Kimmie Clausen has spent countless hours applying for grants and it has finally paid off. While the grants may not cover all the expenses and they will always be looking for funding, they now have the means to start helping women and children that so desperately need it. The monies aren’t there to hire a full staff so the Director and some local volunteers will fill the void until more funding becomes available. Although our group doesn’t help with the day to day cost of running the shelter our volunteers were instrumental in getting the shelter ready to open by supplying the things that were not in their budget. We sent pots and pans, bakeware, cutlery, utensils, dishes and small appliances for the kitchen; sheets, blankets, mattress pads, and pillows for the bedroom, towels, bathmats, and toiletries for the bath; toys, books, cd’s, and games for entertainment, and so many other things such as food, clothing, shoes, underwear, diapers, personal care and safety items, etc.
The shelter is in need of socks, underwear and PJ’s for babies, children and women as well as warm winter gear including coats, hoodies, hats, gloves, etc. Most of the kids coming to the shelter will be infant to age 12 although teens up to age 16 are accepted. Sizes from 3 months through kids 14/16 are needed most and smaller adult sizes can be used by teens. Women’s clothing is needed in sizes 3-4X, underwear 8, 9, and 10, and sock sizes 9-11. The shelter will take care of their clients first but shares excesses with the community as recently happened when a grandmother taking care of 14 kids, both grandchildren and foster kids, needed clothing so they could attend school. Since our group was so generous in sending needs for the shelter and the fact they haven’t opened yet, allowed the director to give clothing to the kids saying “it was the right thing to do and they needed to be in school learning”.
Kimmie also wrote and received grants for computers and other needed items for the youth center in Martin and is working on finding funds for building affordable housing for women leaving the shelter with nowhere to go. We’ll share more on those projects as we receive updates. Kimmie is one busy lady, we’re not really sure when she sleeps but she loves what she’s doing and sees so many needs in Martin and around the Rez that need addressing.
Now on to Christmas. The Christmas party is a big deal on the Rez, it’s the one time of the year parents want their children to receive something special to celebrate the season. Think back to your childhood (if you can!) when you just couldn’t wait to get up Christmas morning and see what Santa had left you under the tree. This doesn’t happen in most homes on the Rez which is why the High Horse’s and Kimmie want to make the day special for the kids.
The shelter plans to serve a Christmas dinner and has arranged to purchase food from the SD food bank for 18 cents a pound and will deliver it which helps their budget. They’ll have a Christmas tree too so if you have safe lights and ornaments please send, decorating a tree would be a great activity for the families to do and would add some holiday cheer. For kid’s gifts they’ve asked for hat/mitten/scarf sets and since we don’t know the ages that will be there we’ll plan on sending a few in each size to fit ages 1-16. Other things to send that will stay at the shelter are coloring books and crayons, books, workbooks, puzzles, games, dolls, dishes, Lego and other building toys, etc. SFK will be making “comfort bags” on an ongoing basis to give to traumatized children arriving at the shelter. We would like to add a book, stuffed animal and a blanket to each bag. If you want to help with that project send the bag and contents or just donate the items you have and the staff can make up the bags there. Please send items at the Sacred Shawl Society address.
Wanblee is expecting 500+ kids at their party on December 18th. They will be serving cookies and hot chocolate instead of a full meal since there’s a Thanksgiving dinner held for the community a few weeks prior. The party will not be held in the Kennedy hall this year but they will still have the “Parade of Lights”. Gifts will be given out to children along the parade route or delivered to their homes by Jerome, Theresa and other volunteers. They’re asking for gifts for kids infant through age 12, although gifts for teens are welcome as they rarely receive one. Each child will receive one gift and a treat bag filled with fruit, nuts and candy. Some gift ideas to send include warm hats, mittens/gloves, scarves, warm clothing, socks, underwear, toiletries including toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc.; non-battery toys, dolls, trucks, games, coloring books/crayons, art supplies, jewelry kits, books, hair items for teen girls, baseball type hats for teen boys, balls of all types, bike tire repair kit, Frisbee, etc. Healthy food items such as nuts, granola bars, low sugar fruit snacks, etc. are good too. They have asked that you put each gift in a plastic bag and label it with gender and an approximate age. If you want to make a contribution towards refreshments and the treat bags send your donation to Lakota Friends Circle here. Please send parcels here.
They’re also hoping to deliver a blanket and new towel and washcloth set to each of the 20 elders aged 70+ in the community. If you can help out with this need they would so appreciate it.
Please join the SFK elves in making this holiday season extra special for our Rez kids! As always THANKS from Sew For Kids.