Meet our One Spirit Volunteers: Lori Jackson
Have you ever wondered what sort of people volunteer for One Spirit? As an all-volunteer organization, One Spirit and the outreach we provide could not exist without the many generous and compassionate individuals who staff our programs. More than 30 people from around the world and right on Pine Ridge Reservation make up the regular staff. They and many other volunteers and approximately 800 sponsors ensure that the Food Program, Wood Program, Sponsorship Program, Allen House, Okini List, administration, and special programs all work as smoothly as possible to better life on the rez for the Lakota people.
We’re featuring the One Spirit Sponsorship Program this month, and we want you to meet another of our wonderful volunteers, Lori Jackson. Lori has sponsored two elders for a few years and now also sponsors one of their grandchildren. We are very fortunate that Lori also manages the One Spirit Running Program as of last year. Generous volunteers like Lori from all walks of life and around the world help about 1,000 adults and children on the reservation through the Sponsorship Program. Individuals interested in becoming sponsors are matched up by the Area Service Coordinators with children, families, or elders on the reservation who need help. Sponsors might send clothing, donate food through the One Spirit Food Program, or pay for loads of wood for home heating through the One Spirit Wood Program. In addition to much-needed goods and heating, sponsors might also support their families emotionally with phone calls, letters, and gifts at Christmas and birthdays. Sponsors frequently report lifelong friendships in return. This special program benefits both those on the rez and the sponsors themselves, as Lori Jackson reminds us.
Lori, a former professional ballet dancer, circus performer, aerobics instructor, and personal trainer (no, not all at once!) from Florida, retired early and now lives in New York City. She discovered One Spirit a few years ago when she saw a Tweet from a One Spirit Area Service Coordinator who plead for help when a sponsor for two elders suddenly could not continue to help them. It was only a few days before Christmas. Lori jumped right in to help. She was tired of listening to her fitness clients complain about their flabby thighs and not having flat stomachs and instead wanted to help people less fortunate than herself, people with real problems.
Lori loves her sponsorship experience and says it has enriched her life. She especially likes the personal aspect of being a sponsor. She likes the fact that there is a regular commitment to another person, a responsibility, and also the sense of fellowship. “When you are on the phone with your family,” Lori says, “you are part of a wider community.” This is the One Spirit we strive for. Lori also appreciates the fact that she learns many cultural lessons from her elders, including how to communicate with them and how she should act. She has not visited the rez yet, but she looks forward to visiting in May for the Run for Life. Luckily for One Spirit and the Lakota on the rez, Lori also lends her good attitude and talents as the manager of the Running Program.
Lori is dedicated to the Sponsorship Program and her role as a sponsor. The only challenges she noted as a sponsor were mostly early on when the Food Program was still under development. She encourages others to become sponsors and has already recruited friends and acquaintances into the program. Although Lori emphasizes the feeling of community and mutual benefit, she enjoys the simple act of giving without any expectations whatsoever. She embodies Oscar Wilde’s quote: “To give and not expect return, that is what lies at the heart of love.”
For fun, Lori likes collecting various things, including Pez dispensers, vintage rock concert tee shirts, and charms (jewelry) from all over the world with which she makes charm bracelets. She also collects all kinds of Hello Kitty items. Lori says that because she was a professional child, she probably celebrates the child/adolescent aspect of her personality now as a retiree! We certainly appreciate Lori’s youthful outlook and dedication to the Sponsorship and Running Programs. Thank you, Lori, for your spirit and commitment as a sponsor and volunteer!