During the winter months life slows down on the Rez, people stay home to keep warm only venturing out to attend school, shop for food, go to medical appointments or work if they’re lucky enough to have a job. Those who work off the reservation during the summer at National Parks or construction jobs return home for the winter and is a time when 3 bedroom homes may house up to 20 people due to the severe housing shortage on the Rez. These homes become crowded and noisy, there’s most likely inadequate food, heat or both, there may be a family member who has a substance abuse problem adding more stress to the situation causing tempers to flare. It becomes a struggle just to find a place to lay your head at night, many family members may share one mattress, kids have trouble finding a quiet place to do their homework. Overcrowded homes often have black mold causing respiratory and other health problems for the most vulnerable, children and elders.
Food that comes in through Running Strong or We Don’t Waste in Denver helps supplement the monthly food stamps that so many on the Rez depend upon. People are worried about the proposed cuts to the SNAP government program in the new budget. Heating costs are a major problem for most families, a one time stipend of $200 is available for households that apply for it through the LIHEAP program which may last a month if temperatures aren’t too cold. Jerome High Horse and his Woodchucks cut wood and deliver it to families in need who have a wood stove and Theresa High Horse advocates for propane for families in the Wanblee area through her job with the tribe with varying degrees of success.
Sew For Kids members and members of our partner groups For the Children of Pine Ridge Reservation, Pine Ridge Elders, and Halfknits have made a difference to these families by sending warm clothing, winter coats, accessories and blankets to help keep them warm during the winter months, your kindness and generosity is greatly appreciated! Homes are poorly insulated and propane is rationed so everyone needs help staying warm. Thanks to everyone for helping our baby programs with much needed clothing and blankets, they are so grateful for your help. Thanks to those of you sending monthly monetary donations to our baby fund through Lakota Friends Circle so we can provide disposable diapers, formula and toiletries and other things we can’t make to these programs. Recently babies in the Martin area were in dire need of formula and several of you came to the rescue to help mothers feed their babies, WIC benefits only last for three weeks, the last week they must find an alternative. Thanks also to those sending school supplies to our donation areas to replenish their dwindling stock.
This month we’ll be concentrating on making bags of all sizes and types for our programs. All our donation areas can use cloth bags, home sewn or ready made and just like warm blankets, they’re always needed. Tote bags are used to pick up food and clothing in Wanblee, diapers, formula and other baby needs at the CDC office in Martin, carrying clothing and personal items when leaving the shelter and families shopping in the Feather Store at Marty Indian School. All bags should be made of washable, sturdy fabric, lighter weight is fine if tightly woven or lined. Here are ideas for bags to make but if you have a favorite, make that and share on our site.
Grocery/tote bags – Finished size should be about the size of a grocery bag or about 14t x 18w. This size is most popular but a smaller tote can be made for kids to carry their treasures…books, toys, shoes, etc. Send to all areas.
Diaper Bags – Sacred Shawl in Martin makes up baby bags for a nurse midwife for her clients, Mary Mousseau from Bright Start fills them with donated items we send and gives them to her clients during home visits, Theresa fills bags for an RN making home visits and for parents in the Wanblee community, and Sandy W. gives them to new moms in her program on Rosebud Reservation. Bags about 18 by 20 or so, outside pockets are handy.
Clothing Bags – Cloth bags are needed to make comfort bags for rape survivors undergoing medical exams at the clinic. All of their clothing and shoes are retained by police for evidence. Kimmie and her crew fill the bags with sweat pants, shirt, underwear, shoes or flip flops, socks and a small toiletry bag with shampoo, conditioner, soap, comb, etc. so women can clean up after the exam and restore their dignity. Drawstring bags should be large enough to hold the above items, with a separate bag for toiletries. The shelter also needs drawstring bags about 18 x 26 or the size of a standard pillowcase for clients to pack their belongings in when leaving the shelter.
Toiletry Bags – Also used for make up bags and to carry menstrual needs especially for teens in school. Kimmie gives make up bags to teens participating in their coming of age ceremony. Women of all ages appreciate filled toiletry bags as not everyone can afford to buy them. Smaller bags/pouches filled with teabags, hot chocolate , dry soup mixes, instant coffee, etc. are nice gifts to give to elders or for nurses to give to moms on their home visits. They also make great Christmas gifts. All areas can use.
School bags and Pencil Cases – Drawstring type with straps is easiest and the style kids like for school bags. Use bright, colorful fabrics for kids kindergarten to middle school, large enough to hold a few books, gym shoes, school supplies, snack etc. Pencil cases are handy to keep backpacks organized and supplies contained so they’re right where they need them.
- Drawstring Backpack for Kids
- Super Easy Backpack
- DIY Drawstring Backpack
- Little Backpacks Tutorial
- Gobbler Pencil Case
- Triangular Pencil Case
Please send your finished grocery/tote bags to any of our donation areas, clothing and toiletry bags (for shelter clients and rape survivors) to Kimmie Clausen in Martin, diaper bags to Bright Start, Kimmie, Theresa High Horse in Wanblee and Sandi W. on Rosebud and school bags/pencil cases to all donation areas, addresses are here. We are not currently sending any shipments to the foster home as they cannot accept clients until insurance funding can be found. Be creative, use up your scraps for the smaller bags, learn a new skill and help others. The need is ongoing and bags can be sent any time, the only exception is no shipments to Marty Indian School during summer break.
On March 2nd schools will celebrate “Read Across America Day” or “Dr. Seuss Day” began in 1998 by the NEA to encourage children to read more and to raise their enthusiasm about reading. We encourage you to send books (in good used condition or new) for babies and children of all ages to any of our donation areas. Baby books are being given to moms at all the baby programs and nurses are even encouraging them to begin reading to their babies in utero so they can begin to recognize their mother’s voice and don’t forget to add some toddler books for their siblings. Statistics show if a child doesn’t read by 3rd grade they most likely won’t finish college. Reading daily to children not only sets a good example but increases a child’s vocabulary and is a bonding experience for both mom and baby. The Head Starts in the Martin area would love books to expand their class libraries and for sending home with students. They don’t have a large variety of books as they’re dependent on donations so would love to have new books to read to the kids. Since we’re making bags this month why not make a few for the Head Start kids, add a book or two and some crayons and a coloring book for a really nice gift. Books are a luxury item on the Rez and 60% of homes don’t even have a book in the home, but we can change that with your help! Shop library sales, thrift stores, or ask local schools for theirs when changing books.
Marty Indian school celebrates Read Across America Day, room parents should ask their teachers what they’re doing that day and for the month of March to encourage their students to read. The school can always use books for students to take home as some classes are not meeting reading standards. Room parents can ask teachers for suggestions of books to add to the class library.
Another fun project for the month is making pillowcases for children. They are one of our most requested items, kids just love them, adding a new pillow makes your gift even more special as most kids don’t have one. Check out this pillowcase tutorial for directions and inspiration and these too. All our donation areas would love pillowcases and pillows.
Lately we’ve been sharing news and photos from Lakota Friends Circle (LFC) Facebook page to the Sew For Kids and Sew For Kids Volunteers Facebook pages. If you’re wondering why, SFK is a program under the umbrella of Lakota Friends Circle, a 501c3 charitable organization, which makes any monetary donation you make to SFK projects through LFC or any goods you send to our donation areas tax deductible. The only exception is donations made to Bright Start as they are a government run program, all other donation areas are either 501c3’s or tribal organizations. Information on each donation area can be found on our site just click on the tab “How You Can Help” for the drop down menu.
March is a month where we can have fun sewing or purchasing bags and filling them with kids books, toiletries or just making a bag or two and sending it on to be filled at the donation site. Read to your kids or grandchildren, get them involved with the project maybe by picking out a special book or fabric for a pillowcase.
Thanks as always from Sew For Kids. You are making a big difference to children and families we serve through the goods you send and your monetary donations through Lakota Friends Circle.