It won’t be long until the school year comes to an end and kids begin their much anticipated summer vacation. Some kids will be attending summer school, others will be going to camps paid for by non-profits that work on the Rez, and still others will be going to the youth center if they have transportation. An advantage of attending some of these activities is the meals kids will receive which helps parents already struggling to feed their families. Kimmie Clausen, Director of the CDC, women’s shelter, and youth center says she is now applying for the hot lunch program because of the generosity of SFK and the Ravelry group that donated funds to purchase a new cook stove for the center. We began a monthly donation program in January and plan to allot some of the money collected to help purchase milk, eggs and other perishables for the youth center to help with their feeding program. If you would like to join us by giving either a monthly or one time donation you can do so here. Kimmie shops once a month at the food bank for both the shelter and the youth center but if attendance is high sometimes that food doesn’t last the entire month and the staff has been chipping in to help out although their salary is only $10 per hour.
Kimmie has hired a male director for the youth center and is still looking for a female director. The new hire allows extended hours at the center 4-10 p.m. weekdays and 1-10 p.m. on weekends with longer hours expected after school’s out. Hours had been cut over the past few months due to staff shortages but now kids are coming to the center in droves with the new hours. They love to see kids using the center as they can provide a structured environment and supervised activities which helps keep kids busy and less likely to get in trouble. Kids won’t just be surfing the internet or watching TV, the South Dakota State University Extension program (Land Grant University) in Brookings. is coming to help them set up raised garden beds and teach them how to maintain them. Produce from these gardens will help feed the kids at the center as well as the shelter. Many of the kids don’t especially like veggies as they haven’t had a lot of exposure to them at home so changing their eating habits is one of the goals of this project. When we first started helping in Wanblee kids wouldn’t eat veggies either, but when they started serving fruit and veggie cups at all the parties there was quick acceptance and now fresh fruit is given in their goody bags at Christmas. We anticipate the same acceptance with the Martin youth and kids are more likely to try new foods if they grow or cook it themselves. They’re planning to hold cooking classes very soon so aprons will be needed. (hint)
The SDSU Extension program will also focus on teaching kids about how to keep their bodies healthy through proper eating and exercise and have already provided free passes to the local pool. Swim suits are needed in sizes 0-12 for the shelter and up to age 18 for the youth center. A special thanks to Angie B. and Sue S. for being the first generous members to send swim suits. Some kids are also getting exercise through tribal dancing which helps keep them in shape and gets them ready to perform at the Pow Wow’s held across the Rez in summer. Kimmie has purchased a water cooler so kids can drink water instead of juice which isn’t good for any of us but especially a poor choice for those who have a genetic predisposition to diabetes. The kids would love to go fishing and need rods and other gear so if you have any extra to donate they would be thrilled!
SFK member and librarian, Laurie A, is visiting Martin in a few weeks to set up a corner library at the shelter. In addition to books the library will have games and other activities so they could use donations of craft supplies, crayons, coloring books, puzzles, etc. Carol B. will be purchasing bookcases for the new library.
Another SFK member, Janet S, is heading to the Rez in August to volunteer with Re-member to help repair homes. She’ll be stopping by Martin on her way and deliver sewing machines and other donations to Kimmie for the youth center. Kimmie said the girls have nearly finished sewing their dresses for the “coming of age” ceremony Isnati Awicalowanpi. We’re thinking about sending sewing projects for the kids in kit form so they have everything they need to complete the project.
Kimmie is still working on acquiring some of the funds that had been allotted for a new shelter in Kyle (now postponed) to use for finishing the upstairs rooms, make repairs to the shelter, fence the property, and install a playground for the kids. She’s currently behind schedule in receiving grant money from the justice department and is nearly $60,000 in debt, not good when you’re trying to operate a shelter and pay salaries but she’s hoping to receive a payment soon. Kimmie is interested in working with the new emergency foster care center in Oglala that opened in February. Barbara Dull Knife has donated 5 acres for a new facility to be built when funding becomes available. She’s also been working with Child Protective services, (LOWO) Public Health, medical personnel, and the tribe to set up a response team for people in crisis.
The shelter staff really isn’t equipped to deal with some of the tougher cases they get such as women addicted to meth or those severely abused. They do the best they can but clients would be much served if they could go to appropriate facilities. She is sending her staff for training in dealing with people addicted to meth as a few clients have come in under the influence and need to be isolated while they come off the drug. If women are sent for treatment at another facility they need a safe place for their children to stay and if relatives can’t care for them the new foster care center in Oglala may be able to help. The shelter readily accepts woman with their children but they don’t have the staff to care for children alone, child care is the mother’s responsibility at the shelter. There are a few communities trying to set up safe houses for kids in danger and although the tribe may donate the house, they still need funds for operating expenses which is usually a huge stumbling block for any new facility on the Rez.
Kimmie is also director for the Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Martin which has received rural grants to repair the homes of 7 elders. We really wonder when or if Kimmie sleeps as she’s the grant writer for all these projects.
Kimmie, along with other community groups, will be hosting a human trafficking workshop, a community walk to commemorate missing women, assumed murdered, and holding a community event on domestic abuse. There were 1500 cases of child abuse, neglect and domestic abuse in 2016, mostly the result of drug and alcohol abuse and living in crippling poverty. The recent shut down of 4 liquor stores over the border in Whiteclay, Nebraska is hopefully a step in the right direction although there is a lot of work to be done getting people into treatment programs and providing education and job opportunities for residents.
Bright Start has a new nurse so Kimmie will be going to Rapid City to meet with her and discuss the community’s needs regarding the program. In exchange for Bright Start nurses providing educational programs to the Martin community about SIDS, parenting, vaccines, child care and development, etc. Kimmie gives them baby bags to give out while making their monthly home visits to new mothers. These bags are made possible by donations that come, almost exclusively, from SFK and the Ravelry group “For the Children of Pine Ridge Reservation”.
In other baby related news, SFK has been looking at the Baby Box program, first made popular in Finland and now spreading across the US, as a way to provide a safe sleeping alternative for babies and hopefully lower the rate of SIDS on the Rez. The boxes come with a mattress and other items at no cost to the mother if she participates in an educational program. Kimmie was provided with the information and will be discussing it when she meets with the Bright Start nurse. A special thanks to SFK member Diane G. for sewing several layettes for new babies.
We’ve been busy working on our summer clothing project and Kimmie reports receiving many requests from girls that received a dress from our group last year if they could please have another. She said the girls were seen around town wearing them all summer long. If you like to sew please join our members in making dresses for these lovely girls. Many of the kids in the 5-12 age group coming to the shelter arrive dirty and are always wearing the same clothes so Kimmie has been giving them a bag with clothing and toiletries, most of the older kids have learned grooming skills and are usually clean and presentable. Your donations don’t remain very long at the shelter because the needs of the community are so high. They will soon be doing an inventory with help from community women on the TANF program and Kimmie plans to give them a bag of clothing and other items for their families. She has an extra washing machine to put in the youth center but it will need to be monitored to make sure it’s only used by those that need it most. Please send pictures of your donations and we’ll share them with everyone at the end of the month. All donations for the Martin area should be sent here, scroll down to the Sacred Shawl address.
Thank you, as always, from Sew For Kids. Please remember, each small donation, each act of kindness makes a big difference to someone in need.
We’re posting a map (click to enlarge) of Pine Ridge so you can see locations of the areas we’re helping, look for Wanblee and Martin. The Bright Start program covers the entire Rez. Map can be found here.