Friday, August 31, 2012

Food Run Report - Oljato 8/22/2012

by John Aldrich

It's hard to resist starting a blog about this food run without including a picture of the beautiful area we stay on the first night. This picture, taken from the patio of the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat, shows the San Juan River and the bridge crossing it which takes us to the Navajo Reservation.

The river forms the northern border of much of the reservation and is sacred to the Dine' people.

On our arrival the temperature was 95 degrees, and those veterans of the food run a year ago were having thoughts of the very hot day we had at Oljato at that time. Fortunately a cloud cover moved over, so when we sat outside for the ceremony it seemed more agreeable.

The next morning was cool and pleasant with the temperature forecast to be a bit cooler than the previous day. There was great optimism in the air as we met on the patio for organizational instructions.

There were thirty volunteers in our group, five of whom had never been on a food run. We were pleased to welcome back two couples, the Hunters and the Hodges, who had been on food runs previously but not for several years.

The drive to Oljato is memorable for everyone as we pass through Monument Valley. But reservation roads require a degree of caution since livestock can appear at any time and anywhere. As we approached our destination we had to stop for a herd of sheep and goats.

Naturally, the best forage is right along the roadside where water collects after it rains.

The first order of business at Oljato was to pause for the group photo.

Joining us were Mary Robertson-Begay who drove over from Hardrock to help with translating, and Stephanie Benally, daughter of one of our favorite ANE people, Beverly Benally.

Dru Drury and his wife, Leslie, once again were part of this food run. Dru has a large trailer and was able to carry many of the Rainbow Boxes for Oljato. This made Ed Keane's life much simpler. Ed is one of the unsung heroes at ANE and does a remarkable job at every food run figuring out how all the boxes are going to get to the reservation. For a small food run like this where there is no big truck, this logistical challenge can be quite a headache.

We always anticipate seeing the Elders. A few were already there when we arrived, but most came later. Sheila McKinney was one of the "greeters" and helps Zettie Smith into the Senior Center.

As the Rainbow Circle progressed outside, the box crew paused for their picture.

As the Elders arrive many are excited to see friends they may not have seen since the previous food run. Libby Chee, on the left, turned 102 last month and is very happy to see Rose Cly.

Volunteers at the warehouse in Salt Lake City worked for months preparing the Program giveaways. Wendy Sanborn, ANE assistant director, pauses for a photo with some of the volunteers who helped arrange these gifts for display.

This photo also shows three of the five volunteers who were new to food runs. Daniela Mussolino, in the pink ANE tee shirt, journeyed all the way from Adelaide, Australia. To her left are  Markie and Kailea Campbell from Ogden.

Elders pull out their finest dress and jewelry for food runs. Nellie Grandson wore a beautiful array of turquoise.

Nellie was accompanied by a number of family members, and there are actually four generations represented in the following photograph. The great grandchildren were adorable.

Over the past several years Linda has invited interested Elders to share their story with us. They receive a list of questions about their past, and from their responses Wendy Sanborn creates a beautiful story about that Elder's life. There is also an incentive of prize money for the best stories.

Lutie Cly was one of the prize winners at Oljato.

After the main program is over there is a meal at each food run. Edith Tahe has been in charge of preparing the food for the past several years, and we are grateful for her dedicated work.

After the meal, Elders' vehicles get loaded and everyone heads home. This view shows the scene outside as the loading was in progress. The photo also provides a hint of the great natural beauty in this area of the reservation.

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