Cold winter weather is making its way across the country and is now in Pine Ridge and other areas of South Dakota we help. Shelter Director, Kimmie Clausen, knows firsthand how bad the weather can get as she found herself stranded in Rapid City while shopping for kids in the Martin community she knew wouldn’t be getting anything for Christmas. It’s hard for kids to believe in Santa or feel the magic of the season when they never receive a gift, some may even blame themselves for not being “good” enough. There are about 800 Native Americans in Martin and Kimmie knows which families are most in need and has been able to help them throughout the year mostly because of your’s and the Ravelry group ” For the Children of Pine Ridge Reservation’s ” generous donations.
She said students are now on their winter break and they’ll be holding a Christmas party at the shelter for residents and another at the youth center for the 75 kids that use the facility. Kimmie has been holding things back from your boxes for gifts for the parties and although some may only get a pair of socks or some hotel toiletries, they will receive something. She found 4 volunteers in the community to wrap presents and help with the party at the center. They had plenty of Christmas ornaments at the center but no tree until Kimmie found one at the Boys and Girls Club on Pine Ridge for $12 which was a win-win as the center now has a tree and the money helps fund the club. Kids will be using the center a lot over their break especially for food as they won’t be receiving their 2 meals a day at school and food at home is always scarce toward the end of the month. The youth center is in the midst of the housing project in Martin and although anyone can use it, most of the kids are Native Americans.
Kimmie hopes that with a small grant she can pay current volunteers at the center $100 a week, which isn’t a lot but would help support their families. The tribe has started a program that pays a small stipend for high school juniors and seniors and college students for helping in the community including the youth center. Kimmie already has some art projects in mind and is working with the University of South Dakota to get a garden program up and running this spring.
The Sacred Shawl Society’s shelter is full to capacity. For many the holiday season isn’t a happy time, some parents can’t afford gifts for their kids because of the higher heating and food bills of winter and if there are issues with drugs or alcohol their stress often turns violent. The shelter serves all of Pine Ridge but will help anyone in an abusive situation. Kimmie says after women receive counseling and heal from their traumas they’re ready to leave and move on but their children are sad and often cry because they don’t want to leave a place that has given them security and their Auntie Kim who’s always there to give them a hug and tell them how special they are. They’ve recently finished the 2 rooms over the garage, each is furnished with 2 sets of bunk beds, a crib and a chair and will be used for single women or both rooms together can be used for larger families. Electric heating will soon be installed thanks to a generous donation of $3000. The downstairs bedrooms in the main part of the shelter don’t have heat so residents have to keep their doors open at night or they can sleep on the hide-a-beds in the main living area. Your warm quilts and blankets are being put to good use and keep the clients snuggly and warm. Blankets and pillows are left around the shelter for people to cuddle up in or for the kids to lie on the floor and watch a movie during quiet time. The shelter will host a Christmas party and dinner for current and past residents of the year and gifts will be given out which were saved from donations Sew For Kid’s volunteers have made throughout the year.
The Sacred Shawl Society recently hosted several, well attended, “Four Directions” walks in various communities around the Rez in honor and remembrance of women who have gone missing or have been murdered due to sex trafficking. They also sponsored a workshop, attended by 50 girls from around the Rez, that educated them about sex trafficking, having respect for their bodies, living a healthy lifestyle and having healthy relationships. A Public Health nurse was on hand to give the girls information about pregnancy and birth control. The girls had a good time, listening to music and enjoying snacks as they got to know each other and for a special treat everyone received a souvenir T-shirt and makeup bag filled with lipstick, nail polish, mascara, etc. Volunteers showed the girls how to properly apply their new makeup. Money may be tight but Rez teens are no different than teens elsewhere, they’re always concerned about their looks and experience peer pressure.
Most of your donated hats, mittens, scarves and warm coats have been given to those in need at the shelter, but since you all were so generous, Kimmie had enough to share with kids at the youth center and the local school. In fact she was recently driving past Martin Elementary on a particularly cold day and saw kids outside playing without hats or mittens. She shortly returned to the school with some of your warm donated items which they were thrilled to receive.
When asked for a list of needs Kimmie says the biggest one at the moment is underwear and socks. For women: bras, regular and sports type, in S-XL and underwear in sizes 5-10 and socks. Underwear has to be new but gently used bras are welcomed. Socks and underwear for kids in sizes 4T to 10/12 which is the most common sizes for kids using the shelter. You can send larger sizes if you have them but the smaller sizes are needed in larger quantities. Disposable diapers are always a need at the shelter in sizes 1-6. A special thanks to Laurie Allen who is sending a large bag of diapers sizes 2 and 4 to the shelter each month. They do receive some diapers from Christian Relief but they are small quantities in a limited size range. Kimmie also assists women from the community who are in need of diapers. Kimmie would love to have more cloth diapers and plastic pants on hand so they can conserve their supply of disposables at the shelter and also to send home with women when they leave the shelter. Many have told Kimmie that having cloth diapers relieves some of the stress they feel when disposables and the funds to buy them run out at the end of the month. Lack of diapers has been shown to contribute to child abuse as babies that are uncomfortable may cry for long periods of time and parents already living under severe stress may snap and abuse their babies.
BPA free plastic baby bottles and canned, powdered formula are also needed for those that aren’t breastfeeding at the shelter. Sadly some parents in the community will give their babies Kool-Aid if they run out of formula as they don’t have the money to buy more which can run $32 a can at local stores. Women from the community in need are only given half a can of formula and 12 diapers at a time but they can return if needed. The last need is for warm sweat/athletic type pants for women, S-XL and children in all sizes but especially 4T to 10/12. Making pants is one of our projects on next year’s agenda but they have a need for them now and with post holiday sales coming up some of you may want to go shopping. Thanks to the generosity of all of you and of Cyrilla Haverkamp’s local community pregnancy center’s donations, they now have enough clothing for infants through 3T for the moment. Thank you all for helping the babies and toddlers! Kimmie has asked staff at the shelter to keep her better informed about items that may be getting low so we can make sure she has what she needs to help the women and children she serves.
Kimmie wants to extend a special thanks to all SFK volunteers and to everyone from the Ravelry group “For The Children of Pine Ridge Reservation”. She is forever grateful to all of you for helping her help the women and children at the shelter. The funding she receives only covers the bare necessities and without you there wouldn’t be toys for the kids, blankets, extra clothing, toiletries, and all the other things you send that makes life so much easier for families coming from abusive situations. Kimmie found her camera and is hoping to post photos of the party to the Sacred Shawl site so be watching for those. She has also received a small grant to make a short film about the shelter and the youth centers so take a look at how you can help them.
And finally we are so grateful and appreciate each volunteer that has given so generously of their time, talent and treasure to the shelter, youth center and the Martin community this past year. We never tire of saying…..We Have The Best Volunteers!!! We wish you all a safe and Happy Holiday Season !