Although we’re two months away from the first day of summer, it’s time once again to start our summer clothing project. The kids will finish their school year by the third week of May which is earlier than many of our schools, but they try to beat the summer heat since some schools on the Rez aren’t air conditioned.
Summer is a time for kids to get out and play and have fun with their friends. Sadly a lot of kids don’t have toys or activities to keep them busy so will spend the summer just sitting around. Those that have fallen behind in their classes will be attending summer school for at least one month of their break. Some kids may get the opportunity to attend a week of summer camp, if they have a sponsor, and others may head to the Sun Dances and Pow Wows held in many districts on the Rez. Summer is also the time for volunteer and church groups to arrive and help with various projects, they usually bring activities and fun things for the kids too.
Summer clothing isn’t a high priority, most parents are concerned with providing nice clothing for their kids to start school as they fear judgment by others if they aren’t nicely dressed. Many will keep their children home at the beginning of the school year until they can afford to get them proper clothing. This practice puts kids behind the rest of their class when they finally join them which makes it difficult to keep ahead the rest of the year. Another reason summer clothing isn’t a high priority is parents will need to spend any extra money they have buying food to feed their kids breakfast and lunch, two meals they received at school. Ninety-five percent of the kids at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee depend on the school lunch program. If a child attends summer classes or lives close to their school they can continue to receive these meals, otherwise many kids go without breakfast or another meal during the day. Food stamps and commodity boxes don’t last the entire month so by the end of the third week parents are struggling to feed their children.
If you’re ever wondering what to send for the kids, there are never enough socks, underwear and shoes. Our kids may have multiple pairs of shoes but when you only have one there’s not much left to pass down to your siblings. New socks and underwear are a luxury, you can make it without either, but they sure are nice to have. Many kids will continue wearing their worn out and outgrown shoes from the school year during summer and cut out the toes or heels so they can use them a little longer. Others will just go barefoot, not something we want to encourage as there are rattlesnakes around as well as dirt roads, broken glass, etc.
This year we’ve added the women’s shelter in Martin to our list of places to help so we’ll be sending clothing items to them for their clients as well as to the High Horse’s in Wanblee. The shelter had 13 children from 2 families last week so went through a lot of clothing, many kids arrive with little or what they have is in poor condition. These kids were all older so their stock of clothing in sizes 7 to 14/16 is extremely low and needs replacing. And with the youth center now open in Martin, the larger sizes could also be shared with kids in need who frequent the center. They’ve decided to limit the number of outfits they give to each child at the shelter so that they have something for the next arrivals. Kimmie, the shelter director, says many kids come in barefoot so they could really use Crocs, flip flops, and athletic shoes. Since our toddler drive was so successful for the shelter, they’ve been able to share the bounty with children around the Rez.
Summers are hot and dry in SD so lightweight clothing in lighter colors helps kids stay cool. For some reason the bulk of donations they receive tends to be for girls so keep the boys in mind when shopping or sewing. Some kids on the Rez wear larger sizes for their age due to their diet so watch for husky sizes for boys and plus sizes for girls. Used clothing should be in gently used condition and meet our donation guidelines. Use your own children/grandchildren as a guide, if they would wear it than it’s suitable to send. New shoes or shoes in gently used condition are welcome , wash all shoes and put in a new pair of laces in athletics so they look newer.
Sewers can find plenty of free patterns across the web and if you watch for sales at fabric stores they can be picked up for a dollar. Fabric can be purchased on sale there too or from garage sales and thrift stores. Look for plus size skirts and dresses, they contain a lot of fabric that can be refashioned into kids clothing. We have some wonderful sewers helping us from “Dress A Girl Around the World” for which we are very thankful. In past years they’ve sent beautiful dresses that mothers have raved about and girls have worn to Pow Wows and other special events. They also sew items for the boys.
Summer Clothing Needs infant through 14/16
- Shorts and lightweight pants
- Tops – lightweight T-shirts and shirts, long and short sleeve
- Shoes – athletic type, flip flops, sandals, Crocs, etc.
- Socks and underwear
- Sun hats – most can’t afford sun screen and the summer sun is intense in SD
- Outerwear – sweaters, hoodies, lightweight jackets
- Dresses/skirts – for girls to wear to Pow Wows, etc.
- Swimsuits and towels – Wanblee has the only school with a pool on the Rez and it’s open during summer.
This project will run for the next two months so whatever you can do to help either the shelter or Wanblee or both would be greatly appreciated. If you have any summer toys or activities, the kids would love to have them. Many thanks from SFK for your continuing support and for helping the children of Pine Ridge.
Please send your donations here. Thank you.