Alpha Pi Omega, an American Indian sorority at UNC Pembroke, has launched a holiday service project for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The sorority is collecting winter clothing and other items for Ashley’s Closet, a locally inspired mission on the reservation. They are working through ties between the Lumbee Indian community and Pine Ridge, home to the Oglala Sioux.
The sorority members are spreading the word in their communities, churches and on social networks, said Alpha Pi Omega President Mariah Sampson.
“We were looking for a project during Native American Heritage month,” Sampson said. “Everybody agreed this was the right project.”
Sorority member Lydia Locklear worked with a youth mission on Pine Ridge during five of the past six summers with a Lumbee mission group, now called Heart Bridge of the Carolinas.
“We have a summer camp project for kids, a youth library and thrift store called Ashley’s Closet,” Locklear said.
Growing up in Robeson County, Locklear is familiar with poverty in American Indian communities, but Pine Ridge was a completely different experience, she said.
“I was 15 the first time I went, and it’s like nothing I’ve seen,” Locklear said. “I was shocked. The West is so big and Pine Ridge is so isolated. It’s like a third world country.”
Locklear is a junior biology major who hopes to become a veterinarian like her father, Dr. Curt Locklear Jr. She is minoring in American Indian Studies at UNCP and is interested in American Indian issues locally and nationally.
“Being a Lumbee, I have an interest in our culture and theirs,” she said. “There are many issues on Pine Ridge affecting young people - gangs and suicide are two.”
Over the summers, Locklear and several family members have worked in several communities on the Reservation, and when they come home to North Carolina, they continue their mission by collecting clothing, schools supplies, books, clothes, baby formula, food and more.
Helping young people is a primary focus of the service project of UNCP’s Alpha Pi Omega. For information about Heart Bridge and their projects, please call Carol Young or Roxanne Lippard at 704.545.5934.