In a past visit to the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP), in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, USDA Rural Development State Director, Elsie, M. Meeks, viewed the boxes and boxes of toys to be delivered on Christmas Eve. Each year CRYP collects “Dear Santa” letters from over a 1,000 children on the Cheyenne River reservation, solicits funds and in-kind donations from organizations and individuals around the world, matches the Santa lists with just the right gifts and delivers the beautifully wrapped packages to eager children — and their grateful families.
CRYP’s annual Christmas Toy Drive means everything to their remote reservation, comprising of two of the nation’s poorest counties. Staff and volunteers worked around the clock serving 1,061 children throughout the reservation through the toy drive and through five community parties supported by the youth group. CRYP is a well-rounded service organization comprised of four major components; the Main Youth Center, the Family Services Program, the two acre Winyan Toka Win (“Leading Lady”) Garden and Ċokata Wiċoni Teen Center (“Center of Life”).
The Ċokata Wiċoni Teen Center was awarded a $135,000 matching grant through the Rural Development Community Facilities program in October 2010. The Center has recently completed its match requirement through donations from Running Strong for American Indian Youth, South Dakota Community Foundation, and private donations. While visiting, State Director Meeks toured the 26,000 square foot facility that houses the Teen Center and viewed the library, classrooms, computer lab, and commercial kitchen where the funds will be used to purchase furniture and equipment.
“Like so many not-for-profit organizations, we had to drastically cut our budget when this recession hit,” Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director explained. “We weren’t able to purchase much-needed equipment and furnishings. This grant will enable us to fully equip the facilities.”