Lest you think St. labre Indian School is only a school, think again.  Youth and Family Services (Y&FS) provides a plethora of assistance and support across the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations that support our primary goal of providing education to children.  As Vicki Anderson, the director notes, “There is a direct tie-in.  Many of the services offered by Y&FS benefits the families of our students in various ways.”  The following is a rundown of the most prominent of these services.

Clothing Room.  Here adults and students can find donated clothing, toiletries, household goods, school supplies, blankets, books and other items for either a minimal cost or for free if people are unable to pay.   Most items are priced at a dollar or less.  Jade, who manages the facility, estimates that more than 2000 visits are made to the facility in a given year.  She also points out that they provide birthday and graduation gifts to children who attend the Ashland Headstart Program (not affiliated with St. Labre).  Clothing room donations come from other agencies and from donors as well.  But Jade asks that the donated used clothing be “used with love.”  In other words, it should be something that you would buy for yourself or for your kids or grandkids.  Books should also be in good repair and of recent vintage.

Food Pantry.  The last two Wednesdays of each month, people can come to the food pantry and receive boxes of canned goods, cereal, milk and frozen meat.  For some, this is truly a life-line when funds are low or seasonal fire-fighting and construction work has ceased.  Vicki keeps meticulous records for agencies that donate food, primarily the Montana Food Bank and National Relief Charities.  However, St. Labre staff and students also organize food drives to keep the pantry operating.   Last year 1500 boxes of food were given out weighing 62,000 pounds. She estimates that 130 households receive food in a given month.  Vicki also points out that the food pantry is staffed by community members who can earn points by working there.

Benevolence.  If you had to drive 60 miles to get to the nearest hospital and twice that far to one that offers acute and highly technical care, you would wonder where to turn.  Y&FS provides benevolence, primarily to elders and children in need of specialized medical care.   During the past year, about $5000 was provided to children with grave illnesses to receive treatment at Denver Children’s Hospital, 500 miles distant.  At the same time, the agency provided $4000 to help people with funeral expenses for loved ones.

Work Incentive Program.  Instead of simply giving out money to younger people in need, Y&FS has set up work sites on the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations where people can work and earn points.  Some of these are at the school, but others are community based.  Vicki estimates that 400 people a year avail themselves of this program.  The points they earn are often used toward home heating in the winter.  They can also purchase items at the food pantry store.  Most popular items are diapers, toilet paper and toiletries.   The store gets in shipments of warm coats and hats for children each winter, which can be purchased with points by parents for their children.  Vicki says this works better rather than the schools giving the items out.  Parents who use their hard-earned points expect the kids to be more responsible by not losing their coats.

Group Homes.  St. Labre operates a group home, Shiloh Lodge, that can accommodate up to eight children, who have been placed there by Bureau of Indian Affairs personnel or tribal social services.  Placement in the group homes can mean one of two things:  the children have no place to go, or the homes they are in are dangerous to their well-being.  Currently four girls and three boys occupy Shiloh Lodge.  Group home parents strive to provide an experience that would be akin to what a normal, functional home setting would be like—regular meal times, bed times and rising times, chores, and, of course lots of love.  Typical placement can be up to 18 months, but some stay longer because of the issues of safety and well-being.

Tax help.  Every tax season, people can get free tax help through Y&FS.  They can also receive training to help others.  In fact, some Native folks who were trained traveled 80 miles to Forsyth, a non-Native town, to teach tax preparation and to help elders with their taxes.  One man was so impressed that he has made the trip to St. Labre each year because, as he said.  “These folks really know what they are doing.”

Daycare.  The St. Labre Daycare serves children aged 0-23 months and from 2 to 6 years old.  The average number in daycare is about twenty.  Costs are much lower than they are in daycare facilities off the reservation because many of these working parents have low-paying jobs.  But if not for daycare, some might not be working at all.

Bountiful Baskets.  Every two weeks 21 baskets of fresh vegetables and fruit arrive at Y&FS and are either given or sold at discount to people.  Bountiful Baskets is a co-op that works with supermarkets to provide the baskets across the entire region.

As Vicki points out, these programs are making life better for many people, especially the elderly and the youth.  In sum, St. Labre is much more than just a school.  Your donations are spreading goodness and happiness in ways that you might not have imagined.