Archive | July 2016

A New Project , Just in Time For School

Back to school time is just around the corner, actually beginning in the next two to three weeks depending on the school district.  Kids will be excited to see friends, share summer news, meet their new teachers and begin a new year of studying and learning to help them achieve their goals and dreams.  Many of them will be looking forward to the two meals, breakfast and lunch, served at school which many may not have received at home over the summer. If kids live near a school or attended summer classes, the summer food program was available to them if they chose to use it.

At the end of the last school year we were approached by the principal of Marty Indian School for our help.  The principal, Gina Curran, searched the web for groups that might be able to help her 95 K through 5 students and found us! Gina grew up in Wanblee SD,  one of the areas we help, and at one time was principal of their local school, Crazy Horse. Marty Indian School is located about 240 miles east of PRR near the Nebraska border and on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, members are Western Dakota and part of the Great Sioux Nation.  This area is even more isolated  than PRR and the students receive few outside donations mainly because of their location and not being a well known school.  Their location also makes it difficult to attract and keep teachers long term. There are two housing projects in the area and is where most of the elementary students live.  Students in middle school and high school receive room and board at the school and come from the local reservation as well as other reservations (including PR) across SD.


When I mentioned the school to Jerome High Horse he sang the praises of Gina having known her as one of their local kids and the Marty School too as he had relatives that attended there and visited there many times himself.  With Jerome’s enthusiastic  recommendation and after speaking to Gina, hearing that she really wanted to make a difference in the lives of the kids she was responsible for, we were getting very excited.  She was asking for basic needs for her students, needs in our opinion every child should be entitled to!  The deal was sealed when Anne Fields, Director of Lakota Friends Circle, was on her way home to Georgia after an eight week stay in Pine Ridge and decided to get off the beaten path and maybe even visit the school and say hello to Gina if she had time.   Fate intervened, Anne hit a deer at dusk just outside of town and had to be towed to a local motel.  The car couldn’t be repaired for three days so Anne called Gina and along with Gina’s husband (also a teacher at the school) drove her to all the places she needed to go and gave her a tour of the school.  Anne was quite impressed with the school and with Gina and her husband and their willingness to show her around not to mention their generous help in her time of need.  Anne felt this would be a great place to help and a great fit for our group.  We are adding the Marty Indian School to our projects which also includes Wanblee Community projects, Sacred Shawl Society’s domestic abuse shelter for women and their children and the My Space Youth Center in Martin, SD.  Please read our past blogs to find out more about these programs.


Classes begin at the school on August 19 but Gina and her teachers are already back preparing for the students arrival.  The school receives government funds to purchase school supplies for students so they buy pencils, crayons, glue sticks and all the notebooks they’ll need for the year.  What they need is a constant restocking of pencils, crayons, glue sticks (Elmer’s in a bottle if mailing in hot weather) as well as dry erase markers for their boards which is a big expense.  Library books for the K -5 level and higher are also needed.  While they’re fortunate to have a great library, kids take books home, some of them are never returned and parents can’t afford to replace them.  So books are needed  for the library, for kids home libraries and for the reading room boarding students (grades 6-12) use when the library is closed.  Gina said 30% of their  grade 4 students in elementary school are reading at that level and above so they want to maintain that and move others ahead. Unfortunately, by 9th grade 80% of students are only reading at the grade 5 level, something they hope to change with a grant they received to increase their reading proficiency. The bottom line is BOOKS are needed for all grades!

School Needs

  • Pencils, erasers
  • Crayons
  • Glue sticks or bottled glue if shipping in hot weather
  • Dry erase markers for teacher’s boards
  • Books for all ages K-12

Many children don’t have adequate clothing so the school has added a washing machine to the nurse’s room so she can wash a child’s clothing that has been worn for a week or more.  They need clothing in all sizes to give out to those that need more and to have on hand to dress the student in while theirs is being laundered.  A sink has been installed in the “Feather” room (see next blog) so kids can wash their hair.  Many students will get lice so teacher’s aides will treat them with the appropriate medicine and then comb their hair with a special fine toothed comb to remove nits (lice eggs), the process takes two weeks to make sure they’re gone.  Kids lack many of the basic hygiene items needed to keep themselves clean, they might have running water if the utility bill has been paid which may not happen in the colder months when a decision must be made to pay the electric bill or buy propane for heat.  The school likes to fill small Ziploc bags with hotel size shampoo, wash cloth, bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and a comb to hand out to kids they think need them, parents can receive one too.  The bags are kept small to be discrete since kids don’t have pencil cases and backpacks to hide them in.  Helping kids maintain their dignity is important to the school but it’s also very important to our group.  They don’t always have the resources on hand to make these toiletry bags so they depend on donations from people like you.

Clothing and Toiletry Needs 

  • Jeans and pants
  • T shirts and shirts, long and short sleeved
  • Hoodies and sweaters
  • Dresses and skirts
  • Socks and underwear (especially small sizes, they’re still accident prone)
  • Mittens, gloves, scarves, hats
  • Coats and jackets
  • Pj’s and slippers
  • Shoes (huge need!) and boots
  • Hotel size shampoo and conditioner
  • Washcloths
  • Ziploc bags (probably quart size)
  • Comb and/or small brush
  • Toothbrush and small toothpaste

Many kids come to school in just a sweater, even in winter so a warm coat would be greatly appreciated.  Last year the upper grades received a donation of coats from an organization, unfortunately most of them were too small but they did fit the younger kids who were most appreciative of their misfortune.  Pj’s and slippers are something kids don’t usually receive along with pillows and pillowcases.  Blankets are always needed and of course sheets, towels and washcloths. We would prefer to send new pillows but everything else can be in gently used condition.

Linens/Bedding Needs

  • Pillows (new) and pillowcases
  • Blankets, quilts, afghans
  • Sheets, twin, full and queen
  • Towels and washcloths

Shoes are a BIG need, now where have we heard that before?  Children receive a new pair of shoes at the end of the school year from the company “TOMS”.   When the new school year begins many kids will be wearing those same shoes that have been worn outside all summer and many will be in terrible condition or outgrown.  Last year Gina remembers supergluing the sole of a student’s shoes that had come apart so they could wear them a little longer.  Kids can wear used shoes in good condition,  new shoes are always a treat, but better to have some protection on the feet than none.  Just like the dirty or worn out clothing, if the school has extra shoes on hand to give out to those that need them, they feel they can make a difference to the child and not draw attention to them as being poor.  The goal is to make kids feel good about themselves and build self esteem.

Since there’s more information to share and this blog is getting long, part two will follow with more information.  There’s plenty of info for you to chew on here and help you get started on the needs.  A special shout out to all the wonderful seamstresses at Dress A Girl, can you help us out with clothing for boys and girls?? Thanks to every one of our members of SFK!!!



News from Martin SD and the Shelter

It’s been a while since we posted any news from the shelter but that hasn’t deterred our generous members from sending many boxes of clothing, shoes, toys and other needs to help women and children at the shelter. We’re so happy to report that Kimmie  will finally receive the money from the $450,000 grant awarded to the shelter from the Justice Department in Washington.  She would have had the money months ago had tribal politics not gotten in the way, thankfully that issue has been resolved.These funds are supposed to last three years but they need at least $200,000 per year to function which covers employees salaries, food, rent, utilities and other critical needs so Kimmie is busy trying to find more grants to apply for. Employees at the shelter are local people, mostly Native American, and they also have 2 TANF workers who sort clothing and other things we send in. Kimmie is also looking for funding to finish the 3 rooms over the garage which they need for larger families, those that are ill or those in need of a quiet area as they heal from their trauma. Recently they’ve had several rape victims admitted and Kimmie has been taking trauma courses and in turn training her employees so they can help clients with their physical and emotional traumas. She has learned through her training that the community needs a team approach when handling abuse cases as these families have so many areas of need to address. They’ll be working this year on getting nurses, doctors, police, social workers, therapists, etc. coordinated and working together on solving the different issues each case presents.

Kids can go outside and play and have fun thanks to all the wonderful things our volunteers have donated to the shelter such as toys, baby strollers, shoes (a huge need!), and summer clothing.  Kimmie is continually amazed at how quickly our groups, SFK, Ravelry -For the Children of Pine Ridge Reservation and Pine Ridge Elders, respond whenever a need is posted. There is no funding for anything other than the costs of running the shelter so everything we send, helps clients with personal needs and lets them know there are people who do care about them and their well being and hopefully in some small way helps them with their recovery.  Kids still love their blankets and stuffies and either hide them or carry them around all day so no one takes them. They love the books we’ve sent and the little ones love to be read to. Kimmie has many photos to share with us and will post them when she can find a minute to spare. One thing they could really use are bags for clients to put their belongings in when  leaving the shelter. We feel plastic bags aren’t an option and want clients to feel good when they start over.  Purchased bags new or gently used or hand crafted are all welcome.

The police department has given the shelter 2 police cars to use for transporting clients to their appointments.  Previously employees were using their own personal vehicles which caused a lot of wear and tear to them on the long trips around the Rez and since they only make $10 an hour really can’t afford any repair bills should they break down. Kimmie is hoping to get free car seats from an organization in Rapid City to use for transporting children.

A new White House initiative aimed at helping low income families buy more affordable diapers was recently announced which also helps the shelter buy diapers at a reduced rate from . You can donate money to that program if you wish through the Sacred Shawl Society’s website. Some SFK  members have been sending cloth diapers to the shelter and clients are using them while there which helps reduce one of the shelter expenses.  Women are given instructions on how to use and care for cloth diapers which most have never seen let alone used. Many families coming to the shelter don’t have running water in their homes so using cloth diapers isn’t an option there. We want to send Deidra Quellette Heyne Finch and Penny Nickols a special Thank You for their efforts in making and sending cloth diapers to the shelter. Others have sent them as well but Deidra who also sews diapers for other organizations and Penny have made a big difference to this program. Deidra sews flats and makes separate covers from PUL so the folded diaper can be inserted and replaced with a clean one when needed and the cover wiped down and reused. Penny makes flats and covers. Many others supply all the items needed for diaper wearers. Thank you to those individuals as well. Teamwork works.

Kimmie Claussen isn’t just the Director of the shelter, she wears many hats in the community including being the Director of Wild Horse Butte CDC (Community Development Corporation) which is one of the reasons she’s not always available to take a phone call. She along with the Board of Directors at the CDC were instrumental in getting a health clinic built for the 800 Native Americans living in their community. Yes, she’s also on the clinic’s Board of Directors!  Eventually they will need a Chief Administrator but have been holding off on that decision until they see if enough patients use the clinic and they can afford the cost. So far the clinic is being used by many people and has filled a huge void on that part of the Rez, patients no longer have to travel long distances to access health care.  Anne Fields, Director of Lakota Friends Circle, recently visited the clinic while on a visit to the Rez and was very impressed with how nice and clean the building was and with the services they provide. Pine Ridge hospital on the Rez is currently dealing with several issues and the emergency room  will be staffed with an outside agency. Our groups and others provide baby items to the nurses in the prenatal and postnatal department at the clinic and also to Bright Start nurses who follow newborns through age 2 across Pine Ridge. Bright Start and the nurses from the clinic pick up their baby items at the shelter storage area and make bags for their clients from items sent in by SFK, For the Children of PRR Ravelry group and PRR Elders group.  Many thanks to all of you helping Pine Ridge babies!

As Director of the CDC, Kimmie also works on issues for elders who have many needs and uses Rural grants to get them much needed help such as home repairs or wheelchair ramps installed or trying to find housing for those in need of a home.  Kimmie knows all too well about housing shortages as many of her clients have no safe home to go to when they leave the shelter and some will end up returning to the abusive homes they came from. The housing situation across the Rez is deplorable with some estimates saying 60 percent of available housing needs to be torn down due to toxic black mold. More Native Americans are wanting to return and live on the Rez which will only add to the housing shortage.  Kimmie is busy meeting with others in the community discussing ways to solve the housing problem, they know it is a daunting task and one that will take time and lots of money. Elders are always in need and sometimes overlooked so please send items such as warm hats, gloves and scarves and coats for them which can be stored at the shelter until needed.

The youth center in Martin officially opened with a ceremony and blessing on May 27 and is being called the My Space Youth Center.  The project was developed by Craig Dillon, LaCreek Tribal Council Representative and the CDC.  Kimmie wrote grants for help setting up the center and a doublewide trailer was purchased and completely remodeled so the interior looks like new. She asked kids in the community what they wanted most in the center and computers, a TV and Wii games were tops on their list. Another grant from the Dietel Foundation made possible the purchase of 6 computers, a TV and the Wii game.  Furniture for the center was purchased secondhand. They have a refrigerator to stock food for kids who arrive hungry which is more likely in the summer when school is out. They’re looking for a stove so they can teach kids to cook and sewing machines are on the future wish list too. They will be setting up a library so books will be needed and once crafting programs begin will need supplies to get started. Staffing is provided by community volunteers and are paid a token of $25 per day for their help.  Security equipment has been purchased for the center.

The kids are so excited to finally have a place to hang out and be with friends and parents are thrilled about having a safe place for their children to go. Kids have to sign a contract when coming to the center stating they understand and will abide by the rules.  If they have 3 violations they’re suspended from using the center for a few months. Kids can come and do homework and Kimmie is looking for college students to help them when school starts again. Each child that comes to the center is given a canvas to paint and will be hung on the wall when finished.  They have plans to bring in someone to teach art to the kids which isn’t part of the curriculum in many schools on the Rez.   Other activities planned are movie nights and sweat lodges and  those being planned for the future are a garden for 2017, and trips to cultural sites on the Rez along with educational classes about their Lakota heritage.

Anne Fields from Lakota Friends Circle found a grant to honor a person and after talking together and deciding it should be Kimmie, we asked her if she would let us apply in her name and she said YES! She was accepted in the initial process and placed in the pool of people competing for the prize. She must write a narrative and answer questions as to why she deserves to win either the $100, 000 grant or one of the two $25,000 grants. Kimmie has helped her people in so many ways over the years and continues to be a driving force for them so we’re hoping she will make the final cut and win one of the prizes.  She dreams about what she can do for the CDC, the shelter and the youth center if she wins. That’s Kimmie, always thinking about how she can better the lives of others. Go Kimmie!!

SFK recently honored Kimmie with a Barbie doll as we wanted her to have something to “play ” with when stresses from the many hats she wears gets overwhelming. Our group under the direction of Penny Nickols, ( our doll lady!) bought and dressed a doll. The idea initially began when someone sent in some Barbie dolls and clothes for the kids and Kimmie mentioned in one of our conversations  that she and the rest of the crew were having a blast dressing and playing with the dolls, at the end of the call she said ” Send me a Barbie doll”!  Kimmie was delighted to receive her doll and accompanying wardrobe and shared her new gift and letter from us with her staff.  Many older women on the Rez never had dolls to play with when they were children.  If you remember last Christmas when our dolls were sent to Wanblee for the party, Jerome and Theresa gave one of them  to a woman that was helping unpack them saying she had never owned a doll in her life.

Kimmie+with+Barbie (2)

We want to thank everyone who has supported Kimmie, the shelter and other programs in the Martin community. Please know that no matter what you send it will find a home and may just be that little  extra boost someone needs to have a brighter day.

In closing , we want to again welcome all of you who have recently joined either our Sew For Lakota Kids Yahoo group or our Sew For Kids Volunteer group. You all rock !