With support from Feeding South Dakota and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Cheyenne River Youth Project distributed 1,100 food boxes to community members on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The nonprofit youth organization’s small staff and a group of youth volunteers conducted the massive operation, which reached every corner of the 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

CRYP’s busy day began at 9:30 a.m., when representatives from the reservation’s outer communities started arriving to pick up boxes for their residents. For three hours, the team loaded boxes for Bridger, Red Scaffold, Takini, Cherry Creek, White Horse, Swiftbird, LaPlante, Bear Creek, Iron Lightning, Green Grass, On The Tree, Thunder Butte, and Promise.

Then, starting at 1 p.m., the distribution was open to members of the local Eagle Butte community. CRYP Deputy Director Dawn E. LeBeau said her staff and the volunteers were able to fulfill all of the day’s requests by 6 p.m.

“It was simply amazing to see how our small team rose to the occasion,” LeBeau said. “Everyone worked so hard, and we definitely were sore the next day! But we’re so grateful we could provide this food for our relatives, and we offer our heartfelt thanks to Feeding South Dakota, the USDA, our volunteers, and everyone in the communities who came together to make this happen. Philámayeye.”

Each food box contained a 1-pound block of Swiss cheese; 16 ounces of cottage cheese; 32 ounces of yogurt; 1 pound of butter; 1 pound of hot dogs; 4 pounds of chicken drumsticks; and 3 pounds each of potatoes, onions, apples, and oranges. The CRYP team also distributed one gallon of 2% milk with each box.

Since the eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic a year ago, CRYP added a variety of public distributions to its regular community services. Executive Director Julie Garreau said this commitment to service lies at the heart of the youth project.

“We created our Family Services program decades ago, understanding that one of the best ways to support our children is to do what we can to help make life just a little easier for their parents and caregivers,” Garreau explained. “The Covid-19 pandemic has added layers of difficulty to already challenging circumstances; our partnerships and the addition of these broad-reaching distributions help meet the greater need.”

CRYP provided fresh produce to 244 families in September, 267 in October, and 175 in November. Also in November, the youth project distributed 153 turkey boxes complete with turkey, gravy, stuffing, corn, cake mix, chips, drinks, lotions, lip balm, and healing salve, as well as hygiene, dental, and cleaning kits.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, CRYP kept its regular Family Services distributions and holiday meals operating. Last fall, the staff distributed school supplies for 572 children; served a drive-thru version of CRYP’s annual Harvest Festival meal to more than 150 people; and served the annual “Thanks for Kids” dinner to 175 people.

“We also created some new fun with our first-ever Halloween Grab n’ Go,” said Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “It gave our kids the opportunity to dress up and and visit us for curbside hot chocolate, cupcakes, and candy.”

Then there was the annual Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive, the “Month of Giving Away Presents,” which ensured Santa Claus could visit more than 265 families across the remote Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. 

“For nearly a year, we haven’t been able to welcome our kids through our doors for the full range of in-person programs we normally offer,” Garreau said. “That’s been hard for them, and it’s been hard for us. So we decided to focus on what was possible, under the circumstances, and we adapted quickly. These distributions give us valuable opportunities to remain connected with our kids and our community, and they allow us to continue to serve. We’re grateful for that.”

To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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.