When we first started to work with the Cheyenne River Youth Project 11 years ago, they had an incredible long-term volunteer program in place. Each summer, 10-15 people would spend the summer at CRYP with the mission of overseeing the kids program. As a result, the kids program would be up and running all season long.

Over the last several years—as economic conditions have improved—the long-term volunteer program has completely dried up. Instead of 10-15 volunteers who stay the duration of the summer, there are often none at all.

As a result, the kids program fluctuates weekly, depending on whether there is a volunteer group at CRYP. The impact of this volunteer shortage is striking. The week before our group arrived, the kids program averaged just 10 to 12 kids a day. The week we were at CRYP providing operational manpower, the kids program averaged 75 kids a day.

While we knew this fluctuation was happening, we did not realize the extent to which the weekly shift in volunteer participation dramatically affected youth attendance. We were also unaware of how the loss of the long-term volunteers impacted the staff.

At the end of the week, Floyd (one of the paid staff at CRYP) was conversing with one of our team members and said to him, “I really appreciate your group being here each summer because you bring us something we don’t hear that often anymore, the sound of children playing.”

I could not imagine a better compliment on the impact of our mission.

Written by Donn Herring
South Dakota Mission Team Coordinator

© 2015 Messiah Lutheran Church