Some of you may remember that I mentioned a GoFundMe donation project I started with another Cherokee friend over the summer. It was surprisingly successful and kept us busier than we ever expected to be, collecting donations, answering questions, then making many trips to the two different Native communities we were serving, in order to deliver donations. She and I developed multiple long term relationships with the people we are serving, as well as with donors who continue to give even though they are aware the GoFundMe has closed. We are glad that the message has gone through loud and clear that Native communities have exceptional challenges at all times, and can always use help. This year has been particularly tough, and for my beloved friends who fish for salmon on the banks of the Columbia River and in the Klickitat River, sometimes just having what they need day to day is an emergency situation.
I made my final trip on Monday to deliver goods purchased with GoFundMe money. My visits to them from now on, I told them, is as their friend, not the “donation lady.” You guys, we received so much it was humbling. Bear with me while I list some numbers, because this is truly humbling and inspiring.
Our original goal was $500, but the website suggested a minimum goal of $1,000. Of the total GoFundMe donations, we received $19,125!! Over 300 people gave on the website. Some gave us $5. Some gave us $1000. After taking their cut for fees and processing, GoFundMe withdrew for us $18,473,71. At donation drives and through personal connections, another $3,295 in cash was donated toward the GoFundMe cause. Some drives were organized for the Warm Springs Reservation only, and an additional $2,818 was donated with instructions for us to make specific purchases, like food or water for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. People reported in-kind donations (this is donated stuff, not money) valued at $7,843 – which is outstanding. It is especially outstanding to know that this is only what was reported. Much, much more has been donated by people who have not reported the cash value of their donations to us. I am also not tracking the amount spent on gas, and time, of the many volunteers who continue to pitch in. Both of the communities we’ve served are multiple hours away by highway, and a donation day is typically an all-day commitment.
In the end, we spent $17,909.31 for things to help the citizens of the Warm Springs tribe. We purchased tents for people to quarantine in due to COVID-19 and then later to evacuate into due to wildfire. To go with the tents we delivered sleeping bags and sleeping pads. We purchased winter coats for kids, socks, towels, and flashlights. We purchased cases upon cases of canned food, and then found out we had to purchase can openers!! We managed to get two 330-gallon water tanks; one for drinking water and one for grey water, in order to help open an Early Childhood Center. And speaking of water, we donated thousands of gallons of bottled water when Warm Springs was on a boil water notice due to their broken water line. We paid for Warm Springs citizens to stay the night in a hotel near the hospital while family members were treated, following automobile accidents. We helped cover the cost of a trailer for another organizer who created Fires Igniting the Spirit, and is doing massive work for multiple Native communities in the West, including Warm Springs.
More importantly, we helped to raise awareness through media stories on the water crisis at Warm Springs. We spread the news to our networks, who took up the call and repeated the story in their own social media, and one person wrote about it in a Letter to the Editor. A fellow Cherokee auctioned off his handcrafted flute and gave proceeds to the cause. St. Clare Parish took on Warm Springs as a special project and worked all summer to collect donations. We found out that businesses had organized donation campaigns and then donated to us, without even telling us, like Banshee Portland. We were a group up and running when other groups around the state realized what was happening and wanted to help, like the fabulous Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly (COBLA) in Bend, Oregon, who wrote me and said, “We are already mobilizing water donations, what more do we need to know?” After explaining to the managers at Big 5 Sporting Goods in Hazel Dell, Washington, what we were doing, they immediately committed to cutting us fabulous deals on every purchase for the rest of the campaign.
We spent $6,677.40 for things to help the Yakama fishermen. These folks mainly needed food, and gas for generators, since there is no electricity. We also brought loads of water, since they do not have plumbing, and finally were able to deliver six-gallon water containers that they can now keep in their homes instead of having to leave constantly to get water. With the smaller group I was able to get information about specific needs, and was able to bring a load of donated shoes, a new mattress, hoodies, a hundred disposable masks, twenty containers of hand sanitizer, and kitchen utensils. This mainly elder community included multiple women who can a substantial amount of salmon each year, and they needed jars and lids. When Big 5 offered their help, we then began purchasing other needed items for fishing in the steep rocky canyon of the Klickitat River, such as a tent big enough for 20 people to shelter in, more shoes, headlamps, flashlights, batteries, and gigantic coolers big enough to hold the gigantic salmon they catch. On Halloween with my own money, I brought them bags of candy and spooky decorated cupcakes, for fun. Because hey – it was candy day!!
Another awesome project we were involved in was brokering salmon sales using the network of one woman who was a major contributor to our efforts this summer. Part of why the Lyle Point folks are struggling this year is because of the drop in salmon sales to tourists and to restaurants. Over the summer I purchased a total of 18 salmon from the fishermen in Lyle, then hauled them to Vancouver, and recouped the costs from buyers. They sold from $40-$120 each. There were times when I had to clean the fish myself, and one time cleaned 9 fish at once with the help of two of the Yakama who had caught them. That was a bloody mess and an experience I’ll never forget, but it was a lot of fun.
Anyway, I made my last trip out there as the emissary of the Natives Helping Natives GoFundMe campaign. My co-founder who took on the Warm Springs needs has absorbed them into her heart as I have absorbed the Yakama family I now know. Though our donation campaign has stopped, we have no intention to stop visiting and bringing whatever we can, and asking them to continue to direct us so we can be of the greatest help. Right now I am volunteering my services to an expanding outreach program at Great Spirit Church. Great Spirit has been right behind us all the way, partnering with us and accepting all donated funds for us, so that we could take advantage of their tax exempt status. Great Spirit is right now involved in Native assistance programs across the state and wants to start up their own GoFundMe campaign. I am happy to share what things I have learned.
I know this is a long post but I’m glad I took the time to write it all down. I actually forgot a lot of what happened this summer, and it’s good to remember what a remarkable thing happened. I’m grateful to my co-founder who was the reason for the collaboration, and the loving spirit and support that meant so much to me all summer. I’m in awe of her generous spirit and though I did a lot this summer, it was nothing compared to what she did. Thank goodness there are so many good people like her in the world.
My love to you, as there are people reading right now who gave something. Even if what you gave was moral support, or forwarding the link to someone, or cleaning out your cupboards to drop off a bag of groceries, you cannot fathom how much that meant to us and kept us going. In a year when things could have squashed me, I was instead buoyed by others. To my blogger people, you already know how many good people are out in the world, because we have all found each other. Please accept my report that there is more goodness stockpiled out there in humanity than I imagined.