The Cheyenne River Youth Project welcomed Senator Tim Johnson on April 24th for a tour of its youth organization – which started in an abandoned bar 25 years ago – and has grown into a 30,000 sq. ft. facility that today serves hundreds of families throughout the reservation.
“Senator Johnson has been a champion for the youth of the Cheyenne River community,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s founder and executive director. “He was instrumental in assisting CRYP in obtaining congressional funding to support the construction of the teen center. He has always supported our efforts in providing services and activities to our kids and we deeply appreciate all of his efforts on behalf of our organization over the years.”
The tour was followed by luncheon at the new Keya Cafe & Coffee Shop, which was launched by CRYP in January. The cafe uses locally-sourced produce from CRYP’s own Winyan Toka Win (“Leading Lady”) garden. The organic, non-GMO garden is managed by youth interns from the Cheyenne River community during the growing season and Farmer’s Market..
The visit and luncheon was also attended by Elsie Meeks, the State Director of USDA Development for the State of South Dakota, along with her colleagues, Clark Guthmiller, Christine Sorenson, and other community members.
“Elsie, Clark and Christine have also been very supportive of our efforts over the years in helping us with capacity-building and growing our organization,” says Garreau. “They have been community partners in improving the quality of life for tribes in South Dakota.”
Garreau says that Senator Johnson’s visit had a special poignancy because it is perhaps his last visit to CRYP before he retires from his senate seat. He is also a member of the organization’s Advisory Council.
“He’s not just ‘Senator Johnson,’” says Garreau. “He is real and he’s down to earth. He’s been a great friend to us and we want him to know how much we appreciate his long-time dedication to the Cheyenne River Youth Project. He will always be welcome here.”
Founded in 1988, the Cheyenne River Youth Project is dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities, ensuring strong, self-sufficient families and communities. Today, CRYP provides a wide variety of programs and services to the community, covering nearly 3 million acres in South Dakota. To learn more about CRYP, visit www.lakotayouth.org.