Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project

Last year, I took part in this project, buying and sending gifts to two kids who live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  A little bit of magic happened this year, and even though the names were selected randomly, I got the SAME two kids as last year!  The joy I feel buying and giving these gifts is beyond measure, and if your heart insists, as mine does, that you take part in this project, here’s everything you need to know, (in a letter written by the two amazing founders). The project is housed at Colorado State University, but anyone, anywhere can take part. Please pass this information along to anyone else you might know that would want to take part.

Happy Holidays Everyone,

The Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project is underway! This year the project holds a very special place in our hearts due to the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Dell Big Crow. Dell was a teacher at the Pine Ridge Elementary School and has worked with us for the past several years on the annual coat drive and the gift project. In her honor we have adopted a new name, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – Dell Big Crow Holiday Gift Project.

As you may know, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is one of the most impoverished and marginalized regions in the United States.  While we seek to address the underlying causes of poverty on Pine Ridge, we also recognize the importance of building connections between people on and off the reservation.  We continue to work on the reservation throughout the year with Service Learning Projects, a winter coat drive, providing families with firewood, and coordinating the Holiday Gift Project.

Recently ABC News and Diane Sawyer did a Special 20/20 Edition on Pine Ridge called, “Hidden America: Children of the Plains.” To view the episode click on this link:

We have been coordinating the Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project for eight years now. The first year we placed boxes all over town, collected gifts and then drove to Pine Ridge to deliver them…it was quite complicated! Then David Bartecchi suggested that we ask people to buy gifts and mail them directly to elders and children on the reservation…simple, direct way of giving…so that’s where we started!  The project is very “grassroots,” since it’s just the two of us Elf volunteers coordinating the project. This year we are working with reservation grammar school teachers and counselors, community organizers, the Lakota Head Start program, Homeless Youth Center, and the Homeless Veterans’ Center in order to identify children and elders with the greatest needs.

Last year, thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and hundreds of new donors the Holiday Gift Project provided gifts to more than 600 children and elders on the reservation!  Donors forwarded the original project letter on to their friends, families, and colleagues and we received responses from all over the U.S. as well as Germany, Australia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, France, Japan, and Canada!  We’d like to invite you to contribute a holiday gift for a child or elder this year.

Each child or elder on our list provides a few gift options…you may chose items off the list or send anything you think is appropriate.  As always please feel free to add small items such as socks, hats, gloves and mittens in your package if you wish. We would like to gently stress the importance of our recipients receiving gifts of approximately the same value. Most wishes are between and $20 – $35. In these difficult economic times our list is growing every year, so if you wish to contribute more, please consider “adopting” another child or elder so we can provide items for more individuals.

We do have a few individuals and families who have particularly difficult circumstances and need more costly items such as electric blankets, space heaters, coats, etc. and if you wish to provide a more generous gift let us know and we’ll set you up to help them specifically.  If you need a tax receipt, please send us an email with the gift and amount and we will send you a receipt at the end of the project.

Here is how it works:

1. Email Julie Sullivan OR Chris Bartholomew if you wish to provide a gift for one or more children or elders…please don’t cc both of us as we may accidentally overlap!

2. We will email you a child or elder’s name, age, gender and one or two gift options and you chose one gift you’d like to provide.

3. Purchase the gift, then giftwrap and mail the package directly to the child, elder, or in some cases to our contact on the rez who will distribute the gifts at school and community gatherings.


5. A note about shipping…if you are an internet shopper, some companies offer free shipping with a minimum purchase.  Last year these companies participated in free shipping: Amazon, Penney’s, Home Depot, Target, Macys, and other large chain stores. You may wish to check out their current offers.

6. Mail the package to the address we have provided.  Please be sure to ship the package according to our directions as some communities only have UPS while others only have U.S. mail, etc.  Please allow enough time for the gift to arrive by Dec. 18th.

7. Please, if you wish, include a personal greeting or message…the families enjoy this personal connection!

8. After you ship the item, please send a return email with the Recipient’s location, name and number in the subject line…basically this is the same info in we put in the subject line of the email sent to you.

Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about the project!  We look forward to sharing the holidays with you and our friends on Pine Ridge!

Julie Ann Sullivan,

Christine Bartholomew,

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – Dell Big Crow Holiday Gift Project Facebook Page:

4 thoughts on “Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project

  1. Julie Ann Sullivan

    Jill, I just noticed that you posted this on our Facebook! Thank you soooooo much for sharing our story. Christine mentioned that you had randomly received the same two children again this year – we’ve had that happen a few times – and yes, the project does feel magical! For me, it’s like getting a present every time I open my email – there are always at least 3-4 people asking to “adopt” someone for a gift. I have met the most amazing people through these holiday emails, and listened to the stories of men and women who were suffering from depression, or the loss of a loved one – and they heard about the project, got up, got out of the house and went shopping for a special gift for someone they’d never even met – it has transformed the lives of the givers as well as the recipients. Thank you for having such a beautiful “heart for the people on Pine Ridge.”

    Julie Ann Sullivan

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      You are so right, Julie, how helping someone else who needs it can heal whatever is hurting for you. I wish more people understood that simple thing. It would ease so much of our suffering. Thanks for doing this project year after year and giving us the opportunity to do so.


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