Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Food Run Report - Navajo Mountain 8/23/12

by John Aldrich

Kayenta is our overnight stop between the Oljato and Navajo Mountain food runs. After arriving at our motel, an early evening thundershower led to heavier rain during the night, so when we arose in the next morning everything was saturated.

Moderate rain continued during the first portion of our 1 3/4 hour drive, but eased up as we approached our destination. The normally beautiful drive took on an extra atmospheric dimension as we traveled through the spectacular redrock countryside.

The ANE van has been a work horse since we acquired it in 2008. For this food run it carried most of the Rainbow Boxes for Navajo Mountain, while on the other food runs it is loaded with medical supplies and homecare products.

C.J. Robb, our master of logistics, passes a food box to Randy Hunter for placement in the Rainbow Circle.

Tony Hodges shows how many boxes can be packed into the back of a small truck.

Among the volunteer giveaways, Lois, a new volunteer from Connecticut, probably had the most unique. The Program provides onions and potatoes as part of each Elders' Rainbow set, but Lois decided to embellish the produce with a bag of carrots for everyone at both Oljato and Navajo Mountain.

Once the Rainbow Circle was completed everything had to be protected from the rain. The Blue Bird flour sacks were placed in plastic bags and everything was covered with tarps. This was fortunate because it rained hard again during the inside portion of the program.

Before the start of the program inside there was plenty of time for visiting with the Elders. Manny Diamontis of Naples, FL, was on his first food run and was able to meet his Elder, Henry Smallcanyon. Manny brought Henry a selection of gifts, and the two seemed to hit it off nicely.

Elders were pleased to be able to visit with one another also. Celone Dougi, on the left, catches up with Berna Little.

Once the food run program was underway this photo shows Mary Robertson-Begay translating for Linda as the volunteers are about to be introduced to the Elders.

When it was Daniela Musolino's turn to be introduced, she received a very warm round of applause as the Elders were impressed that she had come all the way from Australia to meet them.

American Express provides a grant to support the food runs to Oljato and Navajo Mountain. As a part of this, every Elder at Navajo Mountain received a blanket for the upcoming winter weather.

I have written before about the generosity and giving nature of the Elders at Navajo Mountain. This tradition continued with an abundance of giveaways being presented to volunteers and the Program. Rena Greyeyes gave new volunteers Markie and Kailea Campbell each a necklace.

Rena is also proudly wearing her first-place ribbon which she won for submitting her life story.

Another unique giveaway was presented by Berna Little. Although wheelchair-bound, Berna continues to process wool from her own sheep. She presented skeins of natural wool representing the different colors of her animals.

When it comes time for the Elders to receive their giveaways from the Program and the volunteers, their bags fill quickly with a wide variety of items.

At the heart of the Program is the connection between Elders and their sponsors. Those sponsors who are fortunate enough to come on a food run and spend time with their Elder receive the best reward of all.

At the conclusion of each food run we have a closing circle. Each food run is unique in many ways including the makeup of volunteers. As we say our goodbyes we feel nostalgia for the recent memorable experience, but also look forward to seeing each other again on a future trip to the Land.

After the Navajo Mountain food run is over we like to explore a bit in the local area which abounds in natural beauty. A number of our Elders live some distance to the east at a location called Paiute Mesa. My guess is that this is the most remote place on the Navajo Reservation that is actually occupied year around.

Paiute Mesa lies across this 1000 foot deep canyon and is seen in the distance. On the left, below the rim, you can see the beginning of the narrow shelf road that leads to the bottom of the canyon. Because of the rain, the road had become quite muddy and slippery, and we elected not to proceed further. However, as as were chatting by our vehicles, Pete and Rena Greyeyes came along in their pickup and started the harrowing traverse of the canyon that they have made countless times before.

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