Throughout the month of October, Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation residents who renew their Family Services membership with CRYP will receive a $5 discount off the annual membership fee. Those who renew before the end of the month will pay $25 per household instead of $30.
In addition, when each family turns in its application and pays the membership fee, that family will receive “Dear Santa” letters for all children in the household. These letters allow Cheyenne River families to participate in CRYP’s annual Christmas Toy Drive, a deeply loved and long-running program that serves more than 1,500 children in 20 communities scattered across the remote, 2.8-million-acre reservation.
In the letters, children may request specific gifts, from toys to winter clothing and shoes, that will make the holiday season a little more joyful for themselves and their families. All “Dear Santa” letters must be returned to the CRYP office by Thursday, Nov. 15.
“In order to have enough time to coordinate the many thousands of gift items for our families, we really need to have all the Santa letters back in our offices by mid-November,” says Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “So we’re encouraging people to stop by our main office in Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) in October, secure their membership renewals, and then work with their children to fill out and return the ‘Dear Santa’ letters right away.”
The grassroots, nonprofit youth organization created its Family Services program in 2002 to manage the increasing amounts of donated supplies it was receiving year-round. To participate in the program, all local families need to do is pay the annual membership fee. That small one-time payment covers all family members in the household for the entire year, and the proceeds support the program infrastructure so Family Services can remain a reliable community resource in the years to come.
“For that single fee, a Cheyenne River family can participate in all of our Family Services distributions, from school supplies, to winter clothing and shoes, to the Christmas Toy Drive,” Widow explains. “They also can pick up important household supplies, including baby items, on a regular basis and also can receive heat-match assistance during South Dakota’s cold winter and early spring months.”
CRYP surveys show that most member households use Family Services once per quarter, although a sizable group does come in once per month. The majority of member households participate in the organized annual distributions.
“The goal of our Family Services program is to make life a bit easier for our kids by supporting their family members,” Widow says. “Many Cheyenne River families simply don’t have room in their tight budgets to purchase all the supplies they need — much less gift items — so we want to do our part to help them.
“We want our children to be able to enjoy being kids, and the unfortunate reality here is that most of our children have to grow up far too quickly,” she continues. “They carry adult worries and concerns at very young ages. Through Family Services, we’re hoping to do as much as we can to ease that burden.”
To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.