by John Aldrich
The fall food run season got underway with successful visits to Oljato and Navajo Mountain August 24-25. These two runs occur quite a bit earlier than the rest of the food runs which won't take place until late September into mid-October. With the fall food runs we think more about the upcoming winter months and how they will affect the Elders. Giveaways and gift boxes are more oriented to the colder months ahead.
But the concept of colder months ahead was a difficult thing to reconcile with the reality of conditions at Oljato where we experienced temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. Although the food run takes place indoors at the Senior Center, the building is not air conditioned and hence it was just as warm inside as outside.
The day of the food run begins with a group meeting on the outdoor patio of our motel in Mexican Hat. This serves as an orientation to the events of the day, and volunteers receive their job assignments. Here's a portion of the group as we await the start of the meeting:
Our group consisted mostly of veteran volunteers, but we did have a number of new support people including two mother-daughter pairs. It always feels good to be able to introduce new people to ANE activities, especially food runs. After the meeting we caravaned to Oljato and paused for a group picture before proceeding to set things up for the food run:
There's actually a third mother-daughter pair, seen in the lower left. At the tender age of 2 1/2 Samantha Carey was on her third food run.
The initial division of labor is mainly between those working inside to greet Elders and set up for the giveaways:
And those working outside to unload the cargo of boxes and produce and to set up the Rainbow Circle:
The outside set up is quite a bit of work and requires strong backs. Over 100 boxes weighing over 35 pounds must be unloaded from volunteers' vehicles and placed in the Rainbow Circle. Then come the 20 pound sacks of flour, and then lighter boxes and the produce. Samantha shows that a three-pound bag of onions is just about right for her to carry. Pete Carey was in charge of all these logistics and did a fine job.
As in previous runs to Oljato, a generous grant from American Express provided for some special giveaways: a new shovel with each Rainbow Food Box set, and a blanket for each of the women Elders:
Once the program is underway inside, the Elders learn that they will be receiving a shovel while Samantha demonstrates its proper use:
During the program, Elders of various ages are honored for achieving their age. First time food run volunteer C.J. Robb adds to the festive atmosphere with this hat:
While Lucy Atene receives a box of Cracker Jacks for her "birthday":
Elders are often brought to the food runs by their children who may have their own offspring in tow. ANE honors these youngsters with a gift box or set. Here a preschooler seems quite pleased with his gift:
Hannah Pugh, one of our new volunteers, distributes giveaways:
At the conclusion of the giveaways, Yellowman Begay is ready to take his and his wife's items to their vehicle to clear the way for the meal:
At each food run the volunteer group usually contains at least one sponsor of an Elder at that run. Fientje Allis sponsors Jim and Jean Fatt. Jim is very ill with cancer, so Fientje's meeting with Jean was especially poignant:
After the conclusion of the food run we were on our own to find our way to Kayenta, our overnight location prior to the Navajo Mountain food run the following day.