Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The First Food Runs Of The Year

by John Aldrich

The food runs to Oljato and Navajo Mountain are the first to occur every spring. This year the dates were March 30 - April 1. These two food runs are the most recent to be added to the locations that ANE serves. We began going to Oljato in  2003, and this is the third year for Navajo Mountain. Both of these runs are in the Utah portion of the Reservation. A generous grant from the American Express corporation made it possible to start the food runs to Oljato. They wished for the proceeds of their grant to benefit people in Utah which made Oljato a logical choice. Oljato is near Monument Valley in one of the most beautiful portions of Navajoland. After the road was paved to Navajo Mountain a few years ago, it became possible to extend our efforts to this area as well. Navajo Mountain is also in Utah although one needs to drive many miles through Arizona before reentering Utah just south of the mountain.

Volunteers initially meet in Mexican Hat, Utah, where we stay at the San Juan Inn overlooking the San Juan River. The food run ceremony is held outdoors in a beautiful setting with the sounds of the river below and an occasional serenade by a canyon wren.

The Oljato food run takes place the following morning and is held at the new Senior Center. Elders and their families come from the surrounding areas to attend. There are currently 51 Elders served by ANE at this food run.

After arriving at the food run site it usually takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours to get everything set up for the event. The men work outside to unload the produce, flour, Rainbow food boxes, and the various giveaway boxes that the Elders will receive.

Before the general meeting starts there is usually time for volunteers to visit with the Elders.

Occasionally the local hosts arrange for some special entertainment for us. This year at Oljato we were treated to singing by a preschool group.

Spring in this region can see considerable variation in the weather. At Oljato we were blessed with mostly sunny skies and only occasional gusts of wind.  That evening in Kayenta the wind was howling in advance of a storm front that arrived during the night. We awoke to several inches of snow on our vehicles and needed to negotiate snowy and icy roads for the first twenty miles of our drive to Navajo Mountain.

Snow blowing off the roof of the chapter house covers Duncan Orr of Flagstaff. Duncan is instrumental in obtaining donations to provide drinking water for the Navajo Mountain Elders. The water supply there is particularly precarious as they are dependent on a single spring, and the delivery system from it occasionally breaks down.

Here volunteers are putting the finishing touches on the array of food, produce, and other giveaways that the Elders will receive.

Inside, other volunteers are greeting Elders as they arrive.

Now it's time for the actual event to begin. The group of volunteers is introduced to the Elders and their families as Mary Robertson-Begay translates for Linda.

A parting view of Navajo Mountain. Although the weather is always an unpredictable factor for the spring food runs, it never succeeds in dampening our spirit or spoiling the events.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic photos. The images are always beautiful and telling a story. It looks cold, especially with the snow on the inn sign! Great article with lots of information about what goes on. I hope to go on a food run one day. Thanks John.