Sunday, July 1, 2012

Project Pine Ridge

A little over a week ago I returned to my home in Colorado after a 15-day stay at my other home...the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This trip was an amazing one in so many ways. First of all we opened the LightShine Thrift Store at the south entrance to the Rez in Whiteclay, Nebraska. This 4000 sq. ft. store offers affordable (and in some cases free) clothing and home furnishings, as well as a distribution center for giving away food and diapers as they come to us. In the first 2 days of having our doors opened, we found homes for nearly every piece of furniture we had trucked in from Colorado (and we had a lot of it!). Furniture will remain our highest priority as the need for beds, couches, tables and housewares is huge on the reservation. It is essential that we get as many families squared away with beds, rugs and home repairs before the long South Dakota winter sets in. One grandmother said to me as we were loading dishes and pots and pans into her car...."Thank you for doing this." 

 LightShine gives the Lakota people a place to meet the needs of their families without a 50 mile trip to the closest Wal-Mart or a 90 mile trip to the closest city, Rapid City. This fact is a very big deal in a place where half the residents have no vehicles. Thanks to all of you who donated items for the store. We continue to round up art supplies, clothing, housewares....pretty much anything we can get out hands on. If you would like to help you can send items to KC Willis/Lightshine, PO Box 36, Whiteclay NE 69365. Northern Colorado friends can contact me about picking up donations or you can drop off at my home. Contact me at

Summer is an important part of the year for getting things done on the reservation. In large part due to the number of "work teams" that are present from AmeriCorps, as well as church and youth groups from all over the country. These young people come to work...and I have seen first hand how hard they work. They are dedicated to service and much is accomplished. We were able to open the Thrift Store 4 days after unloading the last U-Haul because of their amazing work ethic and diligence. It is a once-a-year chance to get major things done without the cost of labor, which to many of us working on the Rez is a very big deal.  When I return to Pine Ridge on July 25th, we will have at our disposal, several groups ready to work.

Here are pictures of one of the main projects we are determined to accomplish....repairing the home of the Pipe On Head family. Their home is one of the few stucco homesteads on Pine Ridge and was built several generations ago. It is a remote home and they have no place else to live. Lovely Pipe on Head is 3 years old and her little bare feet walk across floors that are literally rotting away. There is no running water and no working windows.  If you would like to personally play a part in seeing to it that we end the summer with this home ready for the winter, please check out the ways you can help listed below.

And last but not least....while I was away on the Rez, my friends and family here in northern Colorado brought enough donations of furniture, household items and clothing to fill yet another 26' U-Haul! I will be heading back to Pine Ridge in a little over 2 weeks and have no money at this moment to rent a truck. I am not a non-profit, but an individual...some use the word missionary...I prefer the word revolutionary :-) trying to make a difference in what is essentially a third-world country within our borders. Eventually we will acquire non-profit status. A 26' U-Haul with gas to Pine Ridge runs about $650.  Hopefully this will be the last time we will need the expense of a U-Haul. We were able to acquire a "box truck" a couple of months ago and your contributions will help finish the repairs on it, so it can be the vehicle I drive back and forth. I hope to drive it back from the Rez this trip!

My hope and prayer is that we can find 50 big hearts for Pine Ridge to donate $50 and we will be able to accomplish our immediate plans. Any amount would be awesome. Please help if you can.

Here are several really easy ways to help....
*Send a contribution through Paypal using "Send Money" to
*Call me with a credit card number (MC, VISA, Discover and AMX) to 719-510-3433
* Via check made out to KC Willis Ministries and mailed to LightShine, PO Box 36, Whiteclay, NE 69365 or PO Box 603, Longmont, CO 80502.
* Send a gift card for Wal-Mart, Home Depot or Loew's to me at the same address.
* Share this letter with your friends, family, art groups and church leaders.

I am available this fall to speak at your church or group and share the stories and images of these amazing people who live in the most beautiful and desperate place I have ever seen.

Thanks for believing that it does not have to stay this way....

KC Willis

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