Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Family Preservation staff are pictured at their Wyola station. From the left: Virginia Real Bird, Betty Jean LaForge, Ernestine Pretty Weasel, Minerva Tucker and Laura White Clay.

Family Preservation program works to strengthen Crow families

For those who want to keep their families together on the Crow Reservation – or, in some cases, Wyoming – a community outreach program is here to help. 
The program, called Family Preservation, is operated by the Crow Tribe in Crow Agency, Lodge Grass, Wyola and Pryor. A center in St. Xavier also is in the works, but has not yet been finished.
“We provide services to the Crow Indian people and family members,” said Virginia Real Bird, currently doing outreach at the Wyola center. “[We] build and strengthen families [so they can] stabilize, thrive and live healthy.”
They serve any tribal member who comes to them – some people looking for help travel to the centers from places off-reservation in Wyoming, such as Dayton and Ranchester. The Family Preservation project strives to help in any way they can. On-site, they give clothing, food and other items to those in need.
“Sometimes, it comes out of our pockets, too,” said Betty LaForge, who runs the Wyola center. “We can reimburse that, but we don’t really ask for that because we’re doing it out of it our own hearts.”
Every month, a new shipment of supplies, food and clothing comes in from Partnership With Native Americans, a nonprofit organization based out of Rapid City, S.D. who works with 60 tribes and serves an estimated 250,000 Native people annually. Supplies from PWNA are given to the community, and some items are put aside for the disabled and elderly, and then delivered to them. 
“Sometimes, there are elders who are not able to come in, so we go and take them supplies,” LaForge said, “but most like to come in, and just sit down and enjoy themselves.” 
Family Preservation also has offered classes on subjects including parenting, cooking and the Crow language.
The organization assists in crises to the best of their ability. If they can’t help, such as in cases of abuse, they will attempt to find someone who can. 
“[At] about 3 in the morning, a couple needed help, so I [had them] meet me here,” LaForge said. “They needed milk and Pampers, and stuff like that.”
For those who need to get somewhere, Family Preservation can be there as well, such as when a person needs to pick up medication from the hospital. Finally, if a large weather phenomenon – such as a flood – occurs, they open their doors to anyone who needs a place to stay. They have a backup generator in case of power outages and more than enough room to shelter people.
In addition to a paid staff, Family Preservation is a volunteer project. Volunteers are accepted at any time, whenever they can show up or whenever they just want to help. To volunteer, all one has to do is go to a local Family Preservation building or talk to anyone from the project.
The building is open Monday through Friday. However, if the need arises, they also can come in on weekends.
For more information or to donate, call Supervisor Ernestine Pretty Weasel at (406) 679-5284.