Dacotah Tipis – Habitat for Humanity Annual Appeal – 2019

Dear Friends,

It is a pleasure to greet you as we come to the close of another year and begin to look forward to our projects and progress in the coming year. Just like a tipi, our strength continues to build upon the poles we have already set forth. As friends and supporters of Dacotah Tipis, we have a keen appreciation of what a safe, secure home means to children who have been raised with poverty and uncertainty. As partners in the goals of our organization, we are blessed to be able to count on your support during the holidays, and at times of greatest need.

As this is written today, another storm is forecast that will drop 15 inches or more of snow upon the Dakotas. For families shivering in cars or makeshift housing, the suffering of our Native brothers and sisters and their children is magnified. The elderly become housebound, and the harsh weather places all the most vulnerable at increased risk. The Crow Creek Reservation is remote. The closest town of any size is 30 miles south of Fort Thompson. There are few job opportunities, and unemployment, combined with generational poverty, has crippled the reservation economically. With the recent further cuts in the food stamp program, food insecurity is at an all-time high on the reservation. The suffering is real.

We have shifted our focus in the past year from completing individual homes to making weatherproofing repairs, quality of life repairs, and accommodations to already standing homes and structures. It improves things for so many on the Crow Creek reservation when we can provide repairs to stop roof leaks, to winterize, and to provide clean running water, toilets that flush, safe flooring, secure stairs, and ramps for the wheelchair-bound.

Dacotah Tipis- Habitat for Humanity hosted six groups of volunteers this year:

The universities of Missouri, St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN), Olivet Congregational Church (St. Paul, MN), AmeriCorps (mostly from the east coast) all participated, and we saw the return of a group of former students from Dartmouth College who had all graduated but returned this year. One of them came to Fort Thompson from India! A group of young men and women volunteered for a two month stretch through AmeriCorps, bringing their good spirits and skills.

The University of St. Thomas group returned for the fourth year, Mizzou for the second, and Olivet Congregational group for the tenth year. It sends such a wonderful caring message to the local community when volunteers return. Deeper connections are made, and trusting relationships can form.

Projects these groups accomplished on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation this year included:

Rehabilitating two bathrooms
Several floor and wall repairs
Painting and repairing peeling walls and exteriors
Kitchen repairs
Fence removal
Removal of dead vegetation, a fire hazard
Yard cleanup
Extensive repair to a trailer home that been severely damaged by fire
Installation of French drains (to carry rainwater away from buildings)
Door repairs

Dacotah Tipis received three grants this year, and thanks to the South Dakota Community Foundation (who funded repair materials and supervisor pay), the Central Electric Co-op (for improvements to the volunteer center), and the Home Depot Foundation (who funded repairs to two roofs and siding to be done in 2020).

In addition, the University of St. Thomas completed a marketing study for us, whose recommendations include a new website and improved social media. The website is still a work in progress, but our social media has a wonderful new facelift, thanks to our long-time supporter, Pam Thomas. If you have not already done so, join our Facebook group where we share news on an ongoing basis, offer fundraising opportunities, and keep the wonderful contacts we have made over the years!

Volunteer groups for 2020 are forming now! A number of our wonderful volunteer groups will return, but there is room for new groups.

Among the returning groups:

Olivet Congregational Church members, from Minnesota, who are the longest-serving volunteers that Dacotah Tipis has, and the Ohio-based Pleasant Hill Church of God. New groups for 2020 will include students from Baldwin-Wallace University (Ohio) members of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, and the Living Faith Church group (Omaha, Nebraska).

If you are considering bringing a group in the coming year, please let us know as soon as possible, so that we can optimize your time, talents, and experiences. We would love to include you or your group. Many have told us that spending time volunteering with Dacotah Tipis on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation has been transformative for them. The accommodations are basic, but comfortable, with men’s and women’s dorms, bathrooms with multiple showers and a wonderful large kitchen where most volunteers prepare and enjoy group meals at night. Volunteers enjoy swims in the river, bonfires at night, and exposure to the rich Native culture.

We currently have a long list of families and individuals who are waiting for needed home repairs, to ensure warmth, safety, running water, and electricity. We can only provide these things with your help. With your funds and volunteer hours, we are able to keep our promise to the local people that we will not abandon them and their needs as others have done in the past. Our board serves on a volunteer basis. Your donations go directly to the purpose you are hoping for, to provide building supplies, tools, and materials for the projects.

Please be generous this holiday season. If you have volunteered with Dacotah Tipis in the past, we are hoping that you will come back. If you have not yet visited, please do. You will not forget the experience. Above all, please offer your financial support to help those who have been repeatedly forgotten and neglected. When families on the reservation need help, we want to be able to tell them that, although they are only seeing us, that there is a whole wonderful, caring community behind us, offering love and compassion.

Wishing you a bright and happy New Year on behalf of those we serve in the lowest median-family income county in the United States.

Mitákuye Oyásiŋ k’a pidámiya do, koda, (We are all related and thank you, friend),

Bob Werner

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