At CRYP, we see all kinds of volunteers. Some arrive with service groups, while others come on their own. They are all ages, and they come from all walks of life. Yet many of them do have something special in common: When they go home, they share their love of the Cheyenne River community and passion for volunteering, and it quickly becomes a family thing.
That’s what happened with Karen and Ken Moore, a volunteer couple from Waynesboro, Virginia. Karen, 68, first volunteered on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation about five years ago.
“We Are All Gods Children invited me to go on a trip to South Dakota to bring vision clinics to the local schools,” Karen remembers. “After returning home, I did some research and found out about the Cheyenne River Youth Project. I was interested in volunteering, because I could see the difference CRYP was making in the lives of the children and adults in the community.”
Since then, Karen has made seven volunteer trips to the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, spending roughly a week on campus each time. As her journey with CRYP progressed, her husband got involved as well.
“I’ve made three trips over the last three years, and I’ve spent a week each time as well,” says Ken, 70. “On my first trip, I saw firsthand the difference CRYP is making in the lives of the kids, and I wanted to be part of that.”
The Moores say they enjoy participating in the many diverse tasks and activities at CRYP.
“I helped with the Harvest Festival one year,” Karen remembers. “I have spent my time working with the children, making crafts; and helping the staff by cooking the main meal after the children have finished their crafts and playtime. I also have helped clean and organize different areas of the buildings.”
Karen has a degree in early childhood education, is an ordained chaplain, and is a certified activities director for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and patients in elderly resident care. At CRYP, she was able to hold a staff workshop on dealing with grief.
“What I love most about the work I’ve done at CRYP is getting to know the children and staff,” she says. “The staff are amazing and are so dedicated to the community. They, as well as the children, are part of my heart.”
Ken’s responsibilities have involved working on maintenance projects, particularly resolving electrical and plumbing issues. The Vietnam veteran is a master electrician and owned his own business; he holds an associate’s degree in business management and recently retired from the Stuarts Draft Retirement Community. He says he also loves working with the kids.
“Seeing the difference I can make with my abilities at little or no cost has been very rewarding,” he reflects. “And watching the children enjoy the simple projects we do together, like building race cars and shooting rockets, is a great experience. My interest is, and always has been, reaching out to the community around me, trying to make a difference in people’s lives. I didn’t think I would become so attached to the people and (CRYP’s) vision for the community as I have.
Karen, an avid traveler who has visited more than 11 countries on outreach initiatives, says she shares CRYP’s story wherever she goes. She says she seeks to make others aware of the issues facing the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation and all indigenous peoples, and the work CRYP is doing to address those issues.
“I know the importance of CRYP to the community firsthand by seeing the difference it makes in the lives of the community’s children,” she says. “The unselfish giving to meet the needs of the community is overwhelming to me. When I see the care that is shown to the children, I know it is making a difference. My expectations from the beginning were to find a way to be part of a community that is changing the lives of its people. I have seen that taking place as I have visited each time, and I stand amazed at the changes I’ve seen.”
When they’re not volunteering, the Moores are dedicated to their family—especially their grandchildren. In fact, they even brought family members to volunteer with them at CRYP last summer. Karen also is in the process of writing a book of daily encouragement.