A Special Thanks to Our Supporters

Happy Holidays to all of our Sew For Kids supporters. Thanks to all of you, we accomplished a lot, helping both the community of Wanblee on Pine Ridge Reservation and the Women’s Health Clinic on Rosebud Reservation.

Well, what exactly DID we accomplish?

Each month for the 10+ babies born on each reservation, nurses Debbie and Michelle were able to provide each newborn with a new diaper bag full of clothing and, as the winter months neared, you started sending winter goodies, then added warm blankets, hats, mittens and snowsuits. There are a lot of babies on the Rez that are well clothed and warm because of your generous donations.

For the SIDS program several sleepsacks were donated to help with this initiative, they will have more of an impact in the warmer months as winters on the Rez are harsh and the homes are too cold to just use a sleepsack, even with clothing underneath. Many of you knitted, crocheted and sewed quilts, blankets and afghans and also made hats and mittens, with much love I’m sure. And several of you made or bought swaddlers that can be used in the first 2 months of life to comfort a crying baby. Can’t you just picture the little ones all warm and snug?

With the nurses encouraging breastfeeding more babies got a healthier start in life. Moms were more likely to continue with breastfeeding when provided with the needed tools to do so. Nursing pillows, reusable nursing pads, and nursing covers for privacy were all appreciated by women and made them feel special. The push is on to keep moms who can breastfeed to do so for at least 6 months and preferably up to a year.

The Head Start was blessed with clothes and shoes, making it possible for all 40 children to come to school ready to learn the day school started. Socks, shoes and underwear were especially appreciated by parents as most can’t afford to buy them for their children and are always in short supply. Socks keep feet warmer and having extra underwear available at school helped with toilet training and also with those little classroom “accidents”. And again as the colder months approached, warm coats, hats, mittens, scarves and boots started to arrive. Kids were able to go outside and play at home and school which is important for emotional and physical health.

The Baby Face program, serving moms with children aged 1 month to 2 years, was able to give out items to moms at home visits and at education sessions. Mothers were really excited at the education sessions when THEY got to choose items for their child.

All the programs benefited from your donations of books, toys, and other educational items. Parents were provided with these items and the guidance on how to work on developmental skills with their children. For the next few months we hope to work on children’s “learning bags” for all the programs. The nurse at Shining Start appreciated the coloring books and pages, crayons and books that helped keep the kids occupied in the waiting room. All of the programs were so happy to have coffee, tea, hot chocolate, biscuits and popcorn for their clinics and educational sessions. It was a huge hit with their clients and they would love to have more for the future.

The Closet received warm clothing, coats and winter gear for children 6+ and their families. Many of you sent much needed blankets, towels, sheets and other household linens as well You helped provide food, gifts, and other items that helped Jerome and Theresa High Horse host a Thanksgiving party where 240 people ate a very nutritious meal and children had a fun and safe environment to enjoy the holiday.

The first Parade of Lights held on December 15 was a memorable one with 12 floats participating. Santa arrived on one of the floats and became part of the celebration in the Kennedy Hall. Santa emptied his bag full of goodies giving each person something to take home, thanks to your generosity and others from various groups. There isn’t enough space to list all the wonderful donations the High Horse’s received for the party but we want you to know of the 720 people that attended no one left hungry or empty handed. All of the winter coats that were donated were given out to anyone that needed one. Needless to say the party was a HUGE success!

2013 brings more needs and challenges, we all have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and their families through various programs and projects we’ll participate in next year. Everything we sent this year will be needed next year along with some new items we’ll need for the literacy project, Rez sewing group and the movie/game night for children in the Wanblee area. Stay with us as we work together with our Rez teams to help improve the lives of Lakota families. Providing opportunities and resources gives people hope that things can change and your help shows them there are people out there that care about them and their future, especially their children’s future.

Thanks to each and every one of you for making 2012 a truly special year.

We wish you all a safe, healthy and happy holiday season

Check out this link to see the people involved in the Shining Start Program and your gifts in action.

And a holiday greeting from our friends in Wanblee SD


December Rez Happenings

Well now that we’ve all made it through Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, we can start getting ready for the December holidays! Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving with family and friends and didn’t gain too many pounds. The party on the Rez was a success with about 240 people sharing a scrumptious dinner, 205 served at the center and the rest of the meals were delivered to the elderly and homebound.  There were even some leftovers that folks could take home!  A generous person from the Rez donated a frozen turkey, ham and all the trimmings for a door prize which was won by a large family of 8 who now have all the goodies they need for a Christmas feast.  Jerome said the family was especially in need of help so this was a wonderful gift for them.  Thanks to everyone that donated food, money and their time to help make this a success, it is greatly appreciated by us here at SFK and everyone on the Rez.

Lots of things will be happening during December in Wanblee starting with their first “Parade of Lights” on the 15th and the arrival of Santa Claus.  Those entering floats in the parade are students of Crazy Horse school (they’re so excited!), Head Start, Eagle Nest College, which is a branch of the main campus of OLC in Kyle, the local ambulance service, police department and an area church.  Plans are for all entrants to meet beforehand, share hot drinks and snacks then proceed with the parade.  A dinner of soup and sandwiches will be served afterwards at the Kennedy Center and Santa will be handing out gifts, they’re expecting about 300 people to attend the festivities.  Members from another group I belong to, have made a Santa suit and toy bag.  Monetary donations are always welcome to help cover the cost of food, if you would like to make a tax deductible donation, please send to Hearts of the Sacred Spirit here.

Some of the gifts given out at the party won’t be fancy or new but certainly needed, such as toilet paper, laundry soap and warm clothing, with many items coming from our group members.  Theresa said they’ll be hanging all the donated coats on a rack for people to choose from if they don’t have one. A big thanks to Amy G and her Canadian group for their coat, hat and mitten drive and of course to all of you who have packed coats in the boxes you send . Theresa is hoping to receive warm mittens, hats and scarves to go along with the coats; I know lots of us here at SFK are working on those right now. Any blankets they receive will be given out as door prizes. SFK and a few other groups have sent in some and are still working on those too. Any patterns you have to share are always welcome and also your photos keep us all inspired.  It’s not too late to send warm clothing, accessories, socks, shoes, boots and coats they will be needed as long as winter is here.

Hearts of the Sacred Spirit has collected about 150 Christmas stockings for the kids through their annual toy drive, some of which will head to Wanblee on the 7th of December. Donations are still being accepted here or you can send items directly to Jerome and Theresa.  If you have time and would like to sew, knit or crochet a stocking they would be welcomed as well. All donations of money or goods are considered a charitable donation and are tax deductible.

Before the end of the year, Jerome and a group of young men are building a home for an elderly man (by Rez standards) who’s been living in a very small trailer with no insulation about 20 miles outside of Wanblee.  Nancy Bishop-Ward, one of our members,  spent some time in Wanblee and saw first hand the condition of Rolland’s current home and upon her return home started a Facebook page called “Helping Hands for Rolland” . Through this page she has collected the funds needed to build the home, donations are still being accepted.  Hearts of the Sacred Spirit is also involved in the project and donations can be made through them for a tax deduction.  One generous donor from the site is donating a bed to Rolland, the first in his life!  Others are donating warm sheets, blankets and a wood stove.  Rolland lives without running water or electricity, although Jerome recently bought him a solar lantern so now he can stay up a few hours later if he chooses to do so. His brother, a few years ago received a home, and while not big, it sure does the job of keeping him warm.

The wood program is in full swing now, many families don’t have the money to pay for a load of wood but tell Jerome they will give him what they can to help with gas for delivery when they have money. The main goal of the program is to keep the kids, the elderly and the infirm, warm and whether they have the money or not, Jerome helps.

Jerome and the young men clean out the creeks for the ranchers and this wood heats homes. Saw blades, gas for the saws and delivery and lubricants for the saws are always needed. If you would like to help fund the wood program, donations can be sent to Hearts here.  As I was riding home on my bike the other day, 24 degrees F outside and windy, I said to myself “Boy, I’ll sure be glad to get back in my warm house”, something we’re sad to say can’t be said by many folks on the Rez.

Shortly after Christmas there’s a plan to start weekly activities for the kids which may include movies, games or an educational evening with local law enforcement. Winters are long and kids need to be involved in positive activities. Suicide takes its toll on this age group who see no hope for things to get better in the future. Police officers will teach children about bullying, drugs, alcohol, and gang activity, all issues they face on a daily basis. The officers purchased a popcorn machine for the center along with a supply of popcorn, oil and bags which will last a while but will need to be replenished.  Donations of popcorn, drinks, movies and games would be welcome for this exciting new program for the children.

And finally, shortly after the holidays, Theresa and a group of local women are going to start a sewing group, making items for their families and also some projects to sell and raise money for community activities.  They will need fabric and notions to get started but we’ll list the needs once the group gets ready to start.  They’re hoping area youth will be interested in learning how to sew.  One of our dreams at SFK was the Rez would eventually join along with us on sewing projects.

On December 23rd the annual Chief Big Foot Ride, renamed “Future Generations Ride” takes place which commemorates and retraces the 191 mile path Big Foot and hundreds of Minneconjou and Hunkpapa men, women and children took from Standing Rock Reservation to Wounded Knee on Pine Ridge Reservation ending with their slaughter by the US Calvary on December 29, 1890.  This is an important event for all Lakota but especially the youth that participate in the ride as they learn of their history and culture and keep the tradition alive for future generations.  Some of your gifts of warm winter gear may be doing “double duty” as local Wanblee folks will be joining the ride.

Wow, sounds like I better get busy making more hats and mittens!  If you’re sending things for the party on the 15th, check your delivery dates which depends on your shipping method.  If they get there after the party, winter will be around for a while so will still be needed. We hope to get pics of the party and the parade of lights,  to share with you.  Thanks from SFK for all you do for the children.  Don’t forget your local communities this winter, children are in need everywhere. I’ll be making some things for kids to be donated to a local soup kitchen.

Give a Doll for Christmas

I’m in the final stages of finishing Christmas gifts for the children in Wanblee. My husband is hoping that Santa’s workshop comes to an end soon so he can find a place to sit. As toys get made they seem to gravitate to the chairs and the sofas in the house. The other day he walked into the den and asked when the nursery was going to close, the sofa and floor were covered with the dolls and doll beds I’ve been making. He quickly took a picture saying, “Other people need to see what I have to put up with”!  “Scrooge”, I said and then we both laughed.

He does have reason to complain though, he’s been dealing with this for many a Christmas. When I was in charge of the Family Committee for our local Habitat for Humanity where I volunteered for 9 years we held a yearly Christmas party for the families with children as our main focus. Our home was the drop off site for donations. As more homes were built, the Christmas list also grew. The last Christmas that I was involved with Habitat we had well over 200 gifts to assemble. It was all worth it though to see a child’s face light up when Santa called their name and presented them with a gift.

Dolls offer lots of learning opportunities. I remember the baby doll I received one Christmas complete with many outfits sewn by my mother and aunt. I spent many hours playing and caring for my “baby”.

I have 2 grandsons now and made them both dolls knowing it’s never too early to teach nurturing skills. I made the first grandson a doll when the second one was on the way. After baby brother made his entrance into the world he emulated what his mother did for his new brother with his “baby”. When mom breastfed, he breastfed his doll, when she cuddled the baby he cuddled his, when baby went for a walk in the stroller he walked his, and when new brother was tucked into bed he put his baby to bed. My youngest grandson loved to look and touch the doll’s face and cuddle with it on his playmat. While both of them prefer their trucks and trains and other “boy toys” their dolls still play a role during playtime.

When I volunteered  in the kindergarten at our local school certain boys and girls during free play time gravitated towards caring for the dolls in the classroom making sure that they got fed, changed and put to bed. While I can’t be sure I’m guessing these children were caring for the dolls as their parents cared for them and their siblings.

And I remember when my son was in middle school, kids were given a baby (a sack of flour) along with a schedule of feeding times, etc. for their infant so they could learn the responsibility of taking care of a newborn and how hard it is to be a teen parent. Well after a few days of lugging the sack of flour around he’d had enough and left the”baby”in his locker. While we laughed at his carelessness it presented a good time to talk about how much work it is to raise a child. He got the message intended by the experiment. Today he doesn’t have any children but will be a good father if he so decides. I watch how he interacts with his nephews and how patient he is with them when they play together.

I looked up several blogs about the value of a doll to a child: one , two, three, and four .

If you’re interested in learning how to make a doll bed read this blog post.  I ended up making 13 of them thanks to neighbors and friends who knew what I was up to and dropped off their clementine boxes and fabric remnants for the project. As for the dolls, I bought some and made some, see patterns here ,here, here and here. Dolls can also be knitted and crocheted .Check out your local library for craft books with doll patterns.

My most thrilling find was a set of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls that I purchased for $10 at a thrift store and being in such great condition I’m thinking they may have been part of someone’s collection.

A big thanks goes out to Beulah who made the bags that hold the doll/bed set as well the doll  wearing the pink dress. And my thanks to all of you who have made/bought dolls or other toys for the Rez.

Toys don’t have to be expensive, they can be home made or gently used and range from simple board books and blocks for the little ones to art and crafting materials for the older ones. Search the web for many blogs that offer free patterns for toys that can be knit, sewn, crocheted or crafted from recycled items, wood, etc.  Simple toys can teach children concepts they need to learn and have been time tested and kid approved, no batteries needed!

A word of warning to those dropping by my house during the holiday season, it’s a MESS!  Bringing a little holiday cheer to children who live hard lives every day of the year makes me feel good and is well worth the time, money, mess (and occasional comments from the husband). I figure he can deal with this chaos for a few weeks /months out of the year. Don’t you agree dear?

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Make a Memory Game

Memory games are easy, fast and cheap to make, are educational and are just plain fun to play. These games help children with word recognition, help them learn colors and letters and improves their memory and concentration skills. See this link. There are many types of memory games on the market but you can easily make your own. Check out this site for making cards with paper or this site for ones to sew.

A memory game is simply two sets of identical cards containing various colors, shapes, etc. It is usually played with 2-4 players, cards are shuffled, placed face down. The first player turns over two cards, if there’s a match they win the pair and get another turn. If no match, the cards are left in place, turned face down again and the next player takes his turn turning over two cards. Remembering the position and what the card’s picture was is where the “memory” skill comes in, the player with the most matched pairs wins. I made 4 memory games geared to younger children and used pictures, colors and shapes made from scraps in my stash. A simple muslin bag holds the game and I also attached a laminated card with game rules to the drawstring.

Games are great skill builders, they get people socializing together, teach sportsmanship and at the same time are fun. Kids on the Rez have few games to play so there’s always a need for ones that appeal to all ages. Our goal is to keep kids busy learning and having fun together with their family and friends.

If you make, or have an idea, for a game that would be appropriate for the kids please share it with us here at SFK.  We would also love to hear what games your kids like to play so we can make a list here for those that would rather  purchase a game for the kids.
Please send your games or other Christmas gifts here. Thanks from SFK for all your help!

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Mealtime Gift Bag

Today’s idea is a mealtime gift bag containing among other items a bib to help keep children’s clothes clean while they eat. On the Rez having few clothes to wear, lack of easy access to a washer or the money to go to a laundromat, keeping a child (or the rest of the family) as clean as possible is a necessity. Babies are started on softer foods around  6 months of age to get them used to the foods they’ll eventually eat, although in reality they could exist on formula or breast milk until a year old with the addition of some basic vitamins. See articles here, here, and here on when and how to introduce solid food. For those of you who have raised kids you know the dinner table is quite a site in those early years. Babies not only taste their food, but play in it as well, as they explore their environment.  A lot of food ends up on their clothes, the floor and their highchair, what a mess!

Today’s project is a bib for a toddler or older child.  At a certain age children start to refuse wearing a bib because it’s too “babyish” so I used this tutorial and this tutorial to make one from a hand towel that looks a little more “grown up” and is also easy to put on,keep on and remove.   The bib in the first link  has the back sewn to the front forming a sleeve opening.  The front can also be sewn up a few inches to form a collection area for dropped food, or just leave the length as it is which helps cover the child’s lap.  I attached snaps to my bib instead of sewing which makes it easier to get on and gives options for length.  If you don’t have a hand towel use any toweling, finish by lining, serging, zigzagging, or applying binding to the edges.  Appliques can be added although at this age they’ll probably be obscured by all the mess, young kids design their bibs with their own “food art”.

Each child would need several bibs to change in or another option is to buy a plastic (BPA free of course) one that could be wiped clean. Look at this site for other ideas for making bibs as gifts. In addition to the bib I added a purchased a sippy cup, spoon/fork and a covered dish to the gift bag, total cost around $5. Put together a mealtime bag for the Rez or just make a bib, whatever time and resources you have will be greatly appreciated.  Please send your gift items to the High Horses here. Thanks from SFK for all your help!

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Be Creative. Design a Gift for a Child.

This week’s plan was to make a toy that could be carried in it’s own bag, was fun to play with and of course inexpensive. With the number of kids we want to help (around 500) it’s obvious we’ll have to make some of the gifts as buying them is more than our small group can afford to do.   We want to focus on hand crafted gifts /toys that gives us an outlet for our creativity and at the same time inspires creativity and provides fun and new learning opportunities for the children that receive them.   Young children are exploring the world, love challenges and exposure to new ideas so we want to develop bags that encourage them further.We’re also making warm hats, mitten and scarves for the kids.

So keeping all this in mind I came up with the idea of a “playdough” bag.  The bag is a simple muslin bag that I added the following to:

3-4 cans of playdough
1 plastic knife for cutting shapes (we all have these laying around)
5  cookie cutters of various shapes  (check resale shops)
1 piece of doweling  ½ inch in diameter x 8” for rolling pin
1 piece of durable vinyl 18 inches x 18 inches  for protective mat
1 playdough  sieve (found at recycle store)
1 recipe for making homemade playdough (attached to bag drawstring)

Total cost of bag and contents around $2.50 and will provide a child with hours of fun. Was able to make 4 bags and fill them with what I already had in my stash but plan to make a few more .  Maybe you have some of these items lying around your house, why not destash a little and provide a great gift to a child on the Rez.
Please send your gifts here. Thanks from SFK for all your help!

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Teens Volunteering in the Community Have their Own Needs

Spring weather returned to Illinois this week with daytime temps between 65 to 80 degrees. I’ve been taking advantage of the warm weather trying to get leaves raked and the garden harvested and ready for next year’s crop. All this yard work has taken away some of my sewing and crafting time but I’ve still been working on projects that will be highlighted over the next few weeks.

Today I received an email from Marilyn Charging Crow who is organizing the Christmas party in Wanblee. She finally sent me the breakdown list of the ages of children who will attend the party.  The delay was due to the many deaths in her family (both young and old) over recent months which has put party planning on the back burner.  Here is her list:

Approximately half girls and half boys….
0-2 about 50——–25 girls, 25 boys
3-5 about 100——-50 girls, 50 boys
6-9 about 100——-50 girls, 50 boys
10-12 about 200—100 girls,100 boys
14-17 about 40—–20 girls, 20 boys

One group we want to make sure receives a gift is ages 14-17.  This group of teens is going to work with Marilyn and others to help make the party a success for everyone but especially the smaller children and the elders.  Five to Six hundred people might attend, there’s a lot of work to be done to prepare for that many people.  There will be decorations to make, a tree to be cut and decorated, food preparation, presents and prizes to wrap, preparing games and other entertainment, etc., just making Christmas dinner is a big deal for most of us so I can only imagine all the work this will take.  I’m starting to get in the Christmas spirit already, which by the way, is only about 10 weeks away!

Teenagers on the Rez need to feel they have a purpose in life and that what they do is noticed and appreciated and that they are respected as individuals.  Working on projects with good role models gives them a feeling of pride and accomplishment in a job well done.  This builds their self esteem and confidence which empowers them for a better future.   If you watched the 20/20 special on “Hidden America: Children of the Plains” you realize all kids are in need of help but teenagers are at a vulnerable period in their lives and need guidelines to live by as they test the waters (got teenagers?) and emerge into adults.  Knowing that people care about what happens to them and having families that love them unconditionally and accept their successes and stand by them when they fail is critical for healthy development.

Since many teens on the Rez come from dysfunctional homes, life is not all that rosy for them and many find suicide the best solution to their problems.  Teen suicide rates have decreased across the US but has increased in Native American youth. Giving these kids opportunities to work with adults on projects from beginning to end is especially helpful.  Jerome High Horse involves the youth in projects such as cutting and delivering firewood to needy elders, doing repairs on homes for low income people, or putting up home ramps for the handicapped.  In return for their help Jerome feeds them a good meal and they are exposed to a good role model with values, learn new skills, build friendships with other youth, and experience the feeling of giving and improving the life of another while adding value to their own. The Christmas party will  provide the same opportunity for these teens to give back and share a joyous holiday with their community.

Although the last blog listed gift suggestions, Marilyn said what the young adults need and want most are (listed in order of importance) personal items such as shampoo, deodorant, liquid soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sanitary pads,(not tampons)  razors, cologne, gloves, socks, brush/combs and manicure sets.   Some of you may think this isn’t much of a Christmas gift but remember your teen years when you wanted to look and smell your best and imagine if you didn’t have the money to buy a bottle of shampoo.  I”m  making some personal toiletry bags to hold liquid soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, brush and shampoo.  I found this bag on Prudent Baby .  The bags that I made are not lined with oilcoth but cotton to cut the cost and use what I have at home.The cotton fabric is washable. The bags are easy to make and take a little over an hour to sew. I am making bags 14″x12″.  For the next bag I plan to add a small end handle. Join me in making some. We only need 40 (20 girls, 20 boys) so we’re hoping to find people that will volunteer to fill a bag (or two).

The gift bag contents should cost about $15 max and if you find an online source with free shipping that saves time and money.  If you can’t afford to fill a bag send a couple of toothbrushes, a comb or pair of gloves, every little bit helps.  Maybe a group of your coworkers, church or family members would like to pool their resources and sponsor a bag.  Arrange a “sock” or “glove” collection collection at work, school or church.  Please reply here at SFK site if you can help.  Anything listed in the “Teen” section of the previous blog is welcome, the items listed here are just those needed most.  Thanks for helping!