Rosebud Boys and Girls Club Art
Boys and Girls Club of Rosebud/Facebook
Sending art supplies in bulk to BIE and tribal funded schools can be helpful to schools that have lost funding.

12 Ways to Make Your Holiday Donations Count

Christina Rose
12/10/14

For several years, I organized drives through Changing Winds Advocacy Center, a nonprofit Native American civil rights and education organization. In that time, I saw the best and worst ways that people give. Sending clothing and other items directly may seem like a good idea, but not when the items belong in the trash. If sending large amounts of money to organizations that spend as much as 30 and 40 percent on high salaries and fundraising is off-putting, here are other ways to help.

Purchasing wholesale goods online or individual items will save on costs when you are the administrator of your donation, and you will know exactly how your money was spent.

Below are tried and true ways Changing Winds helped. Consider taking on a drive or a cause—all year long. It is gratifying, and easier than you think. The feedback we received always touched us deeply and our donors always knew exactly how they had touched the lives of others.

When Sending Items: Send new clothing if you can afford it. If you must send used, make sure there are no signs of wear—no stains, no frayed cuffs or rings around the collar. Sending goods is intended to uplift people, not to burden them with your cast-offs. As one tribal official said, “We have been made to feel like cast-offs long enough. When people send us old, used, stained clothes, it brings those feelings up.”

Pack Items Like a Gift: Send spotless items freshly laundered, folded and wrapped carefully. We used to tell our donors, you aren’t just sending clothes; you’re sending love. When we heard back from the tribal agencies, they told us, ‘When we opened the packages, we felt the love.’ That is the goal.

Winds of Change volunteers load goods. (Christina Rose)

How to Reach Tribes: To find out where to send your gifts, go online, find the phone number for the tribe you want to support, and ask them which tribal agency serves the group you want to support.

Serving Children: Sending items to children is popular. Who can resist serving a children’s shelter? There is always a need for diapers, receiving blankets, infant clothing, snow boots, coats, blankets, underwear, jeans and T-shirts, pajamas, arts and crafts materials, for teens as well as the younger children.

Ask for Tribal Social Services, the Indian Child Welfare Agency, or see if the tribe has a women’s, children’s, or domestic violence shelter.

Serving the Elderly: Call the tribe and ask if there is a community center, Community Action Program office, or other area where the elderly regularly congregate. Send clean blankets, warm coats, socks, toiletries, food, even toilet paper; also coloring books and crayons for their grandkids. The elderly often have greater financial pressures because they watch their grandchildren while their own children attend college or go to work. Sugar-free boxes of cookies are especially appreciated.

Serving Veterans:  If your goal is to reach out to Native veterans, check this map for Vet Centers throughout the U.S. You may be able to find some tribal offices, such as the Pine Ridge Veteran Center. Send new only T-shirts and sweats, razors, shampoo, soap, socks, underwear, and warm coats.

Serving Tribal Jails: Not many think of supporting tribal jails, but inmates deserve sanitary conditions. According to Darwin Long, a facility administrator at for the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Corrections in Pine Ridge, South Dakota: “What we really need are hygiene products. Pine Sol, Lysol and Clorox—they are our main expensive items. We are exposed to HIV and other illnesses. Those products can be costly, and they drive the budget.” Go online to Amazon.com or Drugstore.com, and send a case.

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