BY MARCY SHORTUSE - This Friday, Aug. 30 Lew Hastings will be heading out for a one-month adventure to South Dakota. His car will be packed when he heads to WENG to do his radio show at 3 p.m., and when it is over he is gone.
Lew, the island’s chamber of commerce director, will be working with a group called Okiciyapi Tipi in Eagle Butte, S.D. to remodel and build homes for the residents of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. It is in the poorest county in the nation, according to The Wall Street Journal and other publications, in a place where jobs are scarce and hope is even more so. With another very cold winter arriving soon, volunteers are working hard to make sure as many homes on the reservation as possible are ready for the cold.
After an initial appeal to the community, Lew has so far raised some funds, almost enough money to get him through the 30-day period. He averaged costs out at $50 a day for everything, and so far about 20 days have been sponsored.
“I had one couple and one local business sponsor me for 10 days each,” Lew said. “My sister-in-law sponsored a day, and another person sponsored a day. I am really, really blessed to live in such a generous, gracious community. This trip means the world to me; it is a driving need that I have to help. Even though people may not understand why, they’re still willing to help and I find that to be amazing.”
Another island businessman is donating $300 to the program directly, and some people have been getting clothing and other items together for Lew to take.
Lew said he will be taking donations until 11 a.m. on Friday. Clothing for children and adults (especially cold-weather clothes) is needed, as well as personal hygiene items and small toys or books for children, and adult books for the volunteer housing area. View More images >>
Tools are also a needed item. Once part of the Habitat for Humanity project, Okiciyapi Tipi (which means “people helping people build houses” in Lakota Sioux) was essentially dumped by the HFH organization because they were considered to be “too poor.” Now they rely on private donations and materials that they still have left in storage.
All members of the Okiciyapi Tipi group are volunteers, and Lew said one of the office workers has been working fast and furiously on getting grants written.
In the meantime, Hastings will be doing all he can to help out at Cheyenne River next month. He will be sleeping in bunk beds, eating local fare and learning just how easy we all have it living in and around Boca Grande.
Call Lew at 964-0568 (at the Chamber office) or on his cell at (941) 855-0522 before Friday if you can help.
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