Guy Jones figures it'll take more than $6,000 for gasoline to deliver this year's
clothing and school supplies to children living on South Dakota's Lakota Indian reservations.
For 16 years Jones, co-founder of the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans,
has filled up Ryder trucks, engaged a flock of volunteers, and headed West for what has become a much anticipated arrival
of fall and winter necessities from generous folks in the Miami Valley.
This year's caravan will leave Aug. 30 and return Sept. 8.
Not only is diesel fuel around $5 a gallon, but gathering the rulers, pencils,
book bags and thermal blankets is being done long distance again this year.
Jones left Dayton several years ago after marrying Angela Griffin, a college administrator.
Their latest move occurred in February when she accepted a position at St.. Bonaventure
University in western New York.
Still, Jones said, he travels to Dayton a couple of times a month to see his 19-year-old
son, Dakota, and to continue his work promoting American Indian culture.
Much of this year's drive is being coordinated via the Internet.
"So far it's working out pretty good. I've got people in Dayton who are helping
out quite a bit. You don't have to be physically there to do everything," he said.
One of the most gratifying moments of the annual drive, Jones said, is the look
on the face of a child receiving his own book bag filled with supplies.
The reservations to be visited are among the poorest regions in the country.
"Everywhere, on television, in ads, they see children wearing back packs, so when
they get one, it gives them that sense of belonging; that they're going to be like every other kid in this country." And that,
Jones said, can add to a child's self-esteem.
Jones and five volunteers will be dropping goods off at Cheyenne River, Crow Creek,
Rosebud, and Standing Rock reservations.
Unemployment among the 2,196 residents on Rosebud is 80 percent. Suicide and attempted
suicide among teens are soaring, exacerbated by high poverty rates, depression, joblessness, drugs and alcohol. Schools on
some reservations report that only 21 percent of the freshmen who begin high school will graduate.
Jones said it isn't unusual for students and parents to have to travel 70 miles
to the nearest store for school supplies. Food prices on the reservations are inflated, he said, because of the cost to haul
produce to the often-remote areas.
All donations are appreciated. "Every penny helps," he said.
Cathy Mong, a former Dayton Daily News reporter, lives in Athens, Ga.
b>How to Help
What: Drop school supplies or warm clothing and bedding for Lakota Indian
Where: SunWatch Indian Village, 2301 W. River Road.
Phone: (937) 268-8199.
Monetary donations: Checks may be made to MVCNA, and sent to P.O. Box 637,
Dayton, OH 45401-0637.
Questions?: E-mail the council at firstname.lastname@example.org.