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 Jets.com . 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.
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 !