Well…….maybe not just yet but it soon will be, morning and evening temps are already taking a dip. Winter weather can be a big threat to people living on the Rez in substandard housing and without adequate food and clothing to keep them warm. Many find it difficult to find the money to pay for propane, wood or electricity and without electric they have no way to keep a pot of soup going on the stove or make hot drinks to help warm their body. Some parents say they have trouble getting their kids out of a warm bed in the morning to get ready for school because the house is so cold.
For the next 3 months SFK will have an ongoing Warm For Winter project for the three areas we support: Wanblee community and surrounding areas, Marty Indian school in Marty, SD and the Martin area which includes the Sacred Shawl Society’s domestic abuse shelter and the My Space youth center. Some of you work year round on making hats, scarves, etc. so you can start sending those things now to any of the above areas.
Blankets are a constant need and we were still getting requests for them through April of last year. Most elders and children sleep in twin beds, if they have them, and some households will share a full or queen size family bed with the mattress directly on the floor. There are few king size beds on the Rez and blankets that big wouldn’t be easy to launder. Sleeping bags are great to send and can often be found at thrift stores as can blankets. Check your closets and ask family and friends to check theirs for an extra blanket to send to the Rez. I’m a room parent from afar at the Marty Indian School and the teacher there said many children sleep on the floor without a pillow or adequate blankets.
Winter coats are always a need on the Rez, it’s common to see children going to school in the winter wearing just a hoodie or a sweater. The weather can be brutal in SD and kids playing outside or waiting for a bus are at risk for hypothermia. Please help keep the kids warm this winter, look in your closets, ask family and friends to check theirs, shop thrift stores or garage sales and see if you can find a few to send. Children attending school need winter coats the most as they’re the ones out in the elements during the day. Hoodies and sweaters are also needed, if a child doesn’t have a coat these can be layered providing more warmth.
Hats and mittens/gloves are needed to retain body heat and prevent frostbite. These can be knitted, crocheted or sewn from fleece or purchased ready made. Hats can be worn in cold houses to help keep warm and fingerless mitts keep hands warm while fingers are free to do homework, etc. Many children have worn a pair of thin socks on their hands when they had no mittens to wear, they must make do with whatever they have.
Warm socks are also needed as many kids go to school without them because they either don’t have them or the few pairs they do have get wet and they don’t dry in time for school the next day. Most kids don’t have boots and wear athletic type shoes in the winter, if they’re not in good condition their feet are constantly getting wet.
The two age groups we worry about besides school children are babies and elders because they have trouble maintaining their body temperature. Babies need warm clothing, sleep sacks, hats, mittens and blankets. For those under 1 year blankets are to be tucked in the end of the bed and under their arms to help prevent SIDS. Elders need warm items like socks, slippers, shawls, mittens/gloves, hats and blankets.
The Woodchucks (woodcutters) in Wanblee who work out in the winter cutting and delivering wood need warm clothing too, especially work gloves, coats, warm socks and work boots. If you would like to help with heating assistance, Hearts of the Sacred Spirit has a great heating program that helps families with propane, wood or partial payment of a utility bill once each winter. How much help they can provide is determined by the number of donations they receive. This could be a great fundraising project for churches or groups wanting to help people stay warm this winter. LIHEAP is a government program that provides assistance once a year if households fill out an application, funds are limited so it’s on a first come first served basis. This program starts in October and runs through March.
- Coats, hoodies, sweaters – winter weight better but lighter can be layered.
- Gloves, mittens, fingerless mitts, scarves, hats.
- Boots and shoes
- Socks and slippers – Heavier socks better for winter, slippers knit, crocheted or purchased.
- Pajamas – fleece or flannel are warmer.
- Warm clothing – fleece tops and pants, long underwear, any heavier pants and shirts.
- Shawls for elders – knit or crochet, use warm patterns.
- Blankets, quilts, afghans – Use warm patterns if knitting or crocheting. Sizes from baby to twin or full.
- Sheets, pillows and pillowcases – Sizes twin, full and queen – any welcomed but flannel, jersey knit or fleece are warmer in winter.
- Baby needs – Sleepers, sleep sacks, warm clothing, mitts, hats, blankets, use non-lacey patterns if knitting or crocheting.
- Wanblee Woodchucks – Warm socks, long underwear, work coats and work shoes/boots, work gloves and warm hats.
These warm items are needed at all three locations but keep in mind the Marty Indian School are elementary students grades k-5 and the Woodchucks are only in the Wanblee area. If you are sending a box to the school and have a couple of things for babies or elders include them as they can put them in the feather store or they can find someone to use them. We’re always looking for ways to save on shipping and if you’re a one time or occasional donor please save yourself some money. If you have some extra room in your box consider adding a few packets of instant soup, hot chocolate, tea/coffee, or any other food items that would be comforting on a cold day. Mailing addresses can be found here.
Life is tough on the Rez, especially in winter, so lets see what we can do to make a difference to the families we serve. If you can only help once a year, winter is the time folks need your help the most. When the winds are howling this winter and you’re sitting in a warm house or in front of a fire sipping hot chocolate or cider think about how your gift helped make a family on the Rez warm too. Thank you!
And also thank you to the Halfknits who have volunteered once again to work alongside us making some warm blankets for our latest project, the kids in Marty Indian School, in Marty SD. In the past years, Kat and her crew have helped us by sending warm items to the kids in the projects we support. Take a look at what they do here.
Photos of items made in years past by our wonderful volunteers.