Our hearts have been heavy at SFK since hearing the news of the passing of several members of the High Horse family. Jerome and Theresa lost a granddaughter, three great granddaughters including one due to be born in August, and a grandson in a car accident on May 27 five miles from Wanblee. The fiancé’ of their granddaughter was also killed, their great grandson was the only survivor. They had already been in mourning for the loss of Theresa’s sister and niece and Jerome’s sister who had all passed within the last two weeks before this tragedy. The community of Wanblee is pulling together and they’re relying on each other to deal with their unimaginable pain and loss. Sew For Kids and many other groups raised funds to purchase food for the wake which lasted two days, the funerals were held the following day. Community member Monica, who received money to purchase and prepare the meals said, “Your unselfish, kind, timely contributions have made an unbearable situation easier.” Any late donations and/or extra money will be donated to the elder center in memory of the lost loved ones. Since the accident Wanblee has lost three more members of the community, one of them a 12 year old boy who hung himself. The pain they’re enduring is just heartbreaking and hard to comprehend, we send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the family and the community at large. Kimmie Clausen, shelter director and her financial director were related to the lost loved ones and are also dealing with the loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as well.
Last month Jerome and Theresa High Horse hosted a Mother’s Day Celebration at the Kennedy Center to honor elder women from the community over the age of 70. Other attendees at the event was the newly elected tribal president, Troy “Scott” Weston, and the vice president of Sinte Gleska University (SGU) located on the Rosebud Reservation. Two elders received special recognition for their service to the community, Eleanor Charging Crow (Theresa’s mother) for her lifetime of dedication to the ambulance service on Pine Ridge and Marie Randall, who just happened to be celebrating her 98th birthday, for her continuing support of the local health, education and police departments. Lakota Friends Circle collected funds to purchase food for the party with many donations coming from SFK, the Ravelry knitting group and Pine Ridge Elders. Other members of these groups generously donated shawls, toiletries and other gift items for the elders. Jerome thanked us for our support and help in making the day a memorable event for the ladies. Elder males in the community will get their opportunity to be honored later this month on Father’s Day.
Our blog last month focused on the needs of the Wanblee Elder Center and since then SFK members and others have donated a new mop and other cleaning supplies, cutlery, plastic containers for home delivery of meals, coffee, tea, spices, kitchen linens, two electric skillets and many other things. Someone has donated several tables to the center and SFK member, Christine W. has a friend that made beautiful table toppers for them. Laurie A is still planning to visit Wanblee this summer and set up a library and game area for the center so please send your donations of books, magazines, games, word search and other puzzle books or anything else destined for the center to Jerome and Theresa here and they’ll deliver to them. Thanks to everyone for your generous donations and Laurie A., please bring back lots of pictures from your visit to the Rez!
Although this group was formed to serve children on the Rez, the truth is many of them are being raised by their grandparents. Elders volunteer their time in the community as foster grandparents at school reading to children and giving those in need a little extra TLC. They help make boxes for community families when Running Strong and NAHA deliver food, toiletries and other goods. Elders are a wealth of information about the history and culture of the Lakota people and are vital for passing along their knowledge to younger generations. Whatever we do to help elders is directly benefiting children as well.
The school year has ended at Marty Indian school in Marty, SD and kids are starting their summer vacation unless they’re in need of help with some of their classes. Summer school classes are being held at the local Boys and Girls Club through June and those attending will receive breakfast and lunch. We worry about kids getting adequate food when school isn’t in session as most families are just getting by and without the meal program provided by the school it puts extra strain on an already meager household budget. The Feather Store (blog here) stays open until the end of June and reopens the third week of August when the new school year begins. During a recent phone conversation elementary principal, Gina Curran, said she felt the room parents and Feather Store programs we assisted with really helped make a difference to the students and their performance. She reported the current overall average for Reading-1.2 year’s growth, Math- 1.4 year’s growth, both 1.3 year’s growth, the number of disciplinary incidences decreased by 50% and attendance was up to 92%.
Gina wrote this to me, “There have been times over the year where you ladies have saved a child more than once. Just this week we were able to take a pair of brothers to the feather store to find shoes and clothes to replace their worn out ones. The children were so surprised and thankful. I had a grandma come to see me last week to ask if she could get undergarments for her grandchildren. None of this would’ve been possible without your group”
We will continue the room parent program in the new school year with some modifications, this was the first year and was a learning process for all of us. Most of the teachers are returning to their classrooms, some of our volunteers will continue as room parents but others are leaving to solely focus on the Feather Store so we’ll need some new recruits. Those of you that like to work ahead and shop the sales can start looking for school supplies, clothing, shoes, warm clothing and outer wear, toiletries, towels, linens, toys, books and gift items the kids can “buy” from the Feather Store for their family’s Christmas gifts. Kids earned over 15,000 feathers for good behavior, exhibiting Dakota values, etc. this year. We’re coordinating with a staff member at the school on a sewing program for the girls/boys next year, more information in a future blog. For the latest news and pictures from the school refer to this page of their website
Laurie Allen will soon be heading to Martin (and Wanblee) to set up a reading corner at the My Space youth center. A big thanks to all the people that are already sending books to the center. Martha Growdon, an independent consultant with Usborne Books and SFK member, has a summer book box program where you can buy books to send to your kids over the summer vacation to keep them reading. She has set up an option for subscribers to donate $15 to help send books to the My Space youth center in Martin. She also gets a “bonus” box of books from the company whenever she sells a book box so those books would also go to the youth center. Thank you Martha for your efforts in getting books to the youth center! For more information about this program and/or to make a donation please visit her Facebook page here. More information about this program in an upcoming blog. We would love to get books to the Bright Start nurses to give out when making home visits to new mothers so they can start reading to their children as infants. Books could also be given out to moms visiting the CDC toward the end of the month when they’ve run out of diapers and formula. We’re thinking of how to get books into the hands of kids that live in the outlying communities where they have no access to books so please send us your ideas. Marty Indian school would love to have books for kids to “buy” in the Feather store for themselves or as gifts for family members. For those of you sending books to the Rez, the most economical way to ship is via media mail using the USPS.
The shelter in Martin has been receiving lots of summer clothing which they share with kids in need at the youth center as well as needy kids in the community Kimmie’s aware of. Others across the Rez know about Kimmie and the work she does so will call her for help with their clothing needs. Thank you all fro what has been sent in. SFK started sending dresses to all our donation areas a few years ago when we had several members from Dress a Girl Around the World join us. These wonderful ladies sent a few dresses and the response was immediate, the girls loved them! Well the rest of us were bitten by the dress bug and we’ve been sending dresses to the girls ever since. Our members without sewing skills or the spare time to sew shop for ready made dresses and other clothing for the kids. A lot of summer dresses have already been sent the past few months as pictured below and others are still on their way from Cyrilla H. and Joan D’s groups and we’ll share pictures of those dresses too if we receive them. The dresses are absolutely stunning and we’re crossing our fingers that we get a few pictures of the girls modeling them!
Kimmie is getting free swim passes for the kids at the pool in Martin and needs swim towels and suits. Laurie A’s daughter works at a hotel and gets used towels and sheets whenever they’re replaced with new ones. Try asking your local hotels if they would donate their linens when replacing. Angela B. and Donna S. are sending lots of swimsuits but they can still use more. Wanblee has a pool kids can use at Crazy Horse school so they can use towels and suits as well. And they too have been receiving dresses, shorts and tops as well for their kids, thanks to all of you. Kimmie laughs every time we ask if she needs towels because so few people have them and clients are always sneaking them out of the shelter when they leave. Kimmie says they’re out of bras again at the shelter. New and used bras in good condition are needed, sports bras in sizes 34-38C seem to be the most popular sizes but any size/type is acceptable.
Kimmie reviewed her budget for the Youth Center and discovered she only had enough funding to hire one person to oversee their programs. She has recruited local volunteers to help and also has female elders working with the girls and their programs so she feels comfortable with just the male hire for now. The siding on the center has been replaced as it kept blowing off and the kids painted the outside and are in the process of staining the deck. Kimmie recently held a clean up day with the kids so they picked up litter from the center grounds and other areas as well.
Kimmie has applied for a grant to rehab the shelter and finish the rooms upstairs over the garage. She’s given up on trying to acquire funds from the Four Directions Clinic in Kyle that was set aside for a new shelter (which in all likelihood will never be built). She also applied for more funding for the girl’s “coming of age” programs. They need a few more sewing machines for use at the shelter’s sewing corner and a few for the youth center for the girls to use when sewing their ceremonial dresses. Fabric, thread, ribbon, trim, and other sewing notions are always needed.
We want to extend a warm welcome to all new members at SFK. We hope you’ll be inspired by our volunteers and the work they do and motivated by the stories of the children we tell. Our current project is making/buying bags including toiletry, tote, messenger, book, diaper, etc. and blankets including quilts and afghans in sizes from baby to queen and sheets, towels, and washcloths. If this project doesn’t appeal to you work ahead on one of the others for the year. If you don’t sew or craft but still want to help the kids you can make a one time or monthly donation to Lakota Friends Circle to help with emergency needs. We’re currently using $75 a month to purchase perishable food items locally for the youth center in Martin and last month we sent much needed toiletries to the students at Marty Indian School.
Our goal at SFK is to do projects that move kids and families forward, not just giving handouts. Since so many kids live in poverty on the Rez and come from dysfunctional families they have many basic needs that need attention before they’re able to move ahead. We work with trusted and reliable members of schools, shelters, clinics and communities that can help educate kids and their families and provide them with basic needs donated by our group. We want parents to have resources for their children such as diapers, clothing, basic toiletries, school supplies and books to learn, healthy food to nourish their minds and bodies and basic toys and comfort items to help them deal with the stresses they face every day. We make a difference one child at a time. Kids need to feel loved and supported and if they don’t receive it at home then maybe they can get it through the programs of the organizations we support. We thank you and the children thank you for your continued generosity and support!