Price believes it will be the first hospice on a reservation in the United States.
& lt;a href=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org & gt;By IAN HILL & lt;/a & gt;
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Kathleen Price was shocked by the poverty she had found in the heartland of America. It looked like the poverty that afflicted villages she had visited in nations like Guatemala and Mexico.
"I saw people living in trailers that weren't fit for mice. I saw black mold that covered the wall," she said. "Here, you or I, if our house is filled with black mold, they burn it.
"We're in America. You would think this wouldn't take place. This is taking place in the United States, in our back yard," she said.
It was 1999, and Price was making her first trip from her Austintown home to the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in southwest South Dakota. A tornado had ripped through the area, and Price was delivering supplies to the members of the Lakota Indian nation that had been affected.
When she arrived on the reservation, she found people who were too poor to die with dignity.
"When you have cancer and you die on a dirt floor as the other world looks on, that's not acceptable," Price said.
Since then, Price and her organization, the Mission of Love Foundation, have worked to build homes on the reservation and improve the lives of Lakotas faced with poverty. The foundation is designed to help indigenous people throughout the world.
"Do we continue to keep turning our cheek and say, 'Oh well'? Or do we start giving back?" Price said. "I'm going to start giving back. Let's do them right."
On Tuesday, she and other volunteers leave on a monthlong trip to finish work on the reservation's first hospice. Price said she believes it will be the first hospice on a reservation in the United States.
The concrete foundation for the hospice was poured last fall. Supplies and materials to build the facility have been donated by local companies.
A total of 55 volunteers from the Mahoning Valley, South Dakota and Canada will help build the hospice.
Bill Trigg, a Mission of Love volunteer and retired marine supply salesman from Boardman, said he expects to feel rewarded by the work.
"It's very rewarding to help somebody else," he said.
Volunteer Vickie Eisenbraun, a New Springfield resident who works at Ben Franklin in Struthers, said she believes she has a responsibility to help build the hospice.
"If one person would take care of just one other person in this world, then the world would be a better place to live in" she said.
The hospice is set to include two rooms designed to be big enough so that Lakotas can perform a ceremony when their families and friends die. Lakotas believe the ceremony will help their spirits travel to meet their ancestors.
Many Lakotas, however, have found it impossible to perform that ceremony when their friends and family die in the hospitals off the reservation. Hospital rules limit the number of visitors in a room and prohibit the burning of grass, which is a part of the ceremony.
Daynetta Bald Eagle, a Lakota who grew up on the reservation and now lives in Black Hills, South Dakota, said her cousin died of cancer alone in a hospital room because hospital rules limited visits.
"There's so many people that have to leave home and die with someone they're not familiar with," she said.
There are no hospitals on the reservation; the closest is three hours away in Rapid City.
The reservation has been described as the poorest area in the United States. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 46 percent of the households on the reservation are below the poverty level, and 33 percent of the civilian labor force is unemployed.
The per capita annual income is $6,143.
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