The original goal was to collect three semi truck trailers of good for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Redwood area organizers Clara Friese and Joanne Kitto didn’t quite make it, but only because of too much success.

Because of lack of vehicles, what would have been the fourth semi-trailer load had to be divided among four smaller trailers instead.

After the success of last year’s clothing and furniture drive for the Rosebud Indian reservation, Friese and Kitto decided to try again with a larger reservation this year....

 

The original goal was to collect three semi truck trailers of good for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Redwood area organizers Clara Friese and Joanne Kitto didn’t quite make it, but only because of too much success. Because of lack of vehicles, what would have been the fourth semi-trailer load had to be divided among four smaller trailers instead. After the success of last year’s clothing and furniture drive for the Rosebud Indian reservation, Friese and Kitto decided to try again with a larger reservation this year. They put out the word they would be collecting on Sept. 15 and 16.... And the donations rolled in both days. Listing off just a few examples, Friese said, “The Presbyterian Church gave $2,000 worth of backpacks, and St. Catherine’s brought in tons of food,” Friese said. “Families from the Lower Sioux reservation brought in big trucks and trailers of furniture. Some familys came more than once to drop things off.” “We quit counting bikes at 75,” Friese said. “One couple from Milroy brought a trailer loaded with just books.”  A gentleman from Belview donated an electric wheelchair valued at several thousand dollars, even going so far as to buy a new battery for it.   One advantage of doing a second collection was that people saw the results of the first, and were more willing to donate. “This year, for the first time, I didn’t hear anyone ask me, ‘Why are you doing this?’” Friese said. “There are so many good people in the world, so many good people,” Friese said. “We had volunteers who helped collect for us both Thursday and Friday.” At about 5 a.m. Saturday, volunteer drivers  — Dennis Blue, Joanne Kitto, Friese, Deb and Gerry Hess, Jeanne Palmer, Sharon Lund, Ellen Houtkooper, and Dale Kramer — piled into the trucks and headed west.  They arrived at the reservation about mid-afternoon. The Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota is large enough to hold several different towns.  The goods were distributed among two different communities on the Pine Ridge reservation: Kyle, and Porcupine. The items were originally to be unloaded at an elementary school, “but their gym was too small, so they took the things to the bus garages instead,” Friese said. “The bus bays were full of stuff.” Although the school turned out to be too small, the teachers and custodians pitched in to unload the semi-truck trailers. A reservation radio station broadcast the news all day Saturday and Sunday, inviting residents to come pick up goods that might work for them. “People were just pouring into the enclosure,” said Friese. “When the goods were being distributed, we just sort of stood back. We weren’t there to gape at them. We needed them to maintain their dignity. “One of the most heartwarming things was watching sons and daughters pick up things for their parents before themselves,” said Friese. “I heard many times, ‘Oh, my father could use this,’ or ‘I saw a couch over there that would be perfect for your mother.’ “Joanne kept telling people to go through the bags and look at everything. She was so excited and proud.” “The little ones were so excited to get their bikes. All we heard was laughing and giggling. The first things that went were the bikes. For many, bikes are their only means of transportation,” said Friese. “After that went the furniture and bedding, then the strollers and cribs.” In addition to the goods, Friese and Kitto were able to donate $500 in cash to each of the communities. “When we left for the day at 4 p.m. Saturday, people from the reservation were still pouring into the bus yard. We couldn’t maneuver our vehicles because the streets were so packed with cars.” Does Friese have any other collections in mind for the future? “People have been asking me if I’d do it again. Since I’m totally exhausted right now, I tell them, ‘That’s a discussion for another day.’ “What I really want is for people to step up and volunteer to keep it going. Stopping the donations after a year or two doesn’t stop the poverty. But it doesn’t have to be the same person taking charge all the time.”