4 • THE CHRONICLE OF PHILANTHROPY
JANUARY 19, 2012
THE FACE OF PHILANTHROPY
A Nonprofit Protects
From Poverty’s Chill
LIFE ON THE GREAT PLAINS, with its volatile weather and wide open spaces, is often a struggle for survival.
For instance, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, in
South Dakota, residents face long, harsh winters, an
unemployment rate of up to 85 percent, and widespread health problems. Lorraine Pourier, 66, knows
this firsthand. She lives just a few miles north of
Wounded Knee, the site of a famous massacre in
1890 and a major protest in 1973.
Ms. Pourier hasn’t had a working furnace for the
last two years. Even if the furnace worked, she says,
her limited income barely covers her electric bill, not
to mention all her medications.
But she no longer suffers so much on cold days,
thanks to National Relief Charities, which she
learned about when one of the organization’s representatives showed up at her door to promote services
the nonprofit provides.
“He brought me a load of wood and a survival box”
containing blankets, candles, and food, Ms. Pourier
says. “That really helped me throughout the winter.”
Now, Ms. Pourier has firewood delivered to her home
three times during the cold season.
National Relief Charities’ winter-fuel program,
which also helps people winterize their homes, serves
about 9,000 people on 75 American Indian reservations in the Southwest and Great Plains.
The 20-year-old organization in Sherman, Tex.,
also offers basic health services for American Indians, such as diabetes and HIV screenings, because
easy access to health care is not available near most
reservations. In addition, the organization provides
college scholarships and even school supplies to
young people, since so many residents of the reservations are too poor to buy pencils for their children.
Altogether, the charities’ programs aid 300,000 people a year.
National Relief Charities operated on $45.2-million
last year. About half of the group’s support comes in
the form of products and services donated by corporations and other charities, supplemented by cash donations mostly from individuals.
Many of the volunteers and workers at groups that
collaborate with National Relief Charities live in the
communities they serve. One of those workers, Karen Red Star, says her dream is to someday have the
transportation that she and others need to reach all
those who need aid. “Even a horse would help,” she
Here, Carrie James, in Smith Lake, N.M., receives
a delivery of firewood. — MARISA LóPEZ-RIVERA
Photograph by Helen Oliff