Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Food Run To Leupp

by John Aldrich

This article is part of a series describing the various food runs that the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program conducts to eleven different locations around the Navajo Reservation. These locations are served in groups of two or three sites per trip. The articles will hopefully be of general interest but also serve as an orientation for prospective food run volunteers and for those who have signed up for a particular food run.

The Leupp food run is part of a set of three, the others being Dilkon and Birdsprings. This food run set begins the three week period of food runs that constitute the bulk of our visits to the reservation. In the spring it occurs in late May and in the fall, late September.

Food runs to Leupp began in the late 1990's when Cyndy Sheldon, sponsor of an Elder at Many Farms, urged Linda to add this location along with Dilkon. Cindy lived in Winslow and saw the great need to serve elderly Navajos in the southern part of the reservation. At first these were small scale runs carried out by a just a few dedicated volunteers. Initially the Elders at these locations received food certificates rather than food boxes making these runs much simpler to carry out from a logistical standpoint. But soon Leupp and Dilkon were full-scale food runs with Rainow Boxes, produce, and gift boxes. Ironically, Leupp returned to its roots in 2012. Although the Elders still receive gift boxes and home-care products, they elected to return to receiving food certificates of comparable value in lieu of the Rainbow sets. They can use these certificates at a nearby Basha's grocery and choose those food items that they prefer.

Some additional history of the early years of this food run can be found in this blog

The following map* shows the Navajo Reservation with particular reference to the location of the food run at Leupp and the lodging base for this run which is Winslow. You can click on the map to see a larger view.
Leupp has quite an interesting history and was the first designated chapter on the Navajo Reservation. It also served as a site for a Japanese relocation camp during WWII. More of this history is chronicled in this article published by the Navajo Times.

The food run to Leupp takes place on Wednesday, the day following the Dilkon food run. After another breakfast meeting at Denny's Restaurant at the Flying J Travel Plaza, we hit the road for Leupp, a mere 29 miles away. This is the second shortest drive to any of the food run sites.

Although food runs here initially began at the chapter house, they have been held at the Senior Center for many years.
Our coordinator during these years at the center has been the beloved and colorful Lola Bahe.
Lola has been trying to retire for several years, but the center can't find a replacement and keeps calling her back. This is probably because Lola is irreplaceable.

Since this is another location that has elected to receive food certificates in lieu of food boxes, it's a bit simpler setting up the Rainbow Circle. But there are still plenty of boxes to be unloaded.
Things are a bit more spacious inside the center compared with Dilkon, but it's still a relatively small area to work in.
Each food run provides an opportunity for Elders to visit. Because of the dispersed nature of Navajo living, many of these people may not have seen each other since the previous food run.
Although Lola is the coordinator at Leupp, Mary Begay comes from Hardrock to serve as our translator. She also helps as Linda meets with individual Elders to assess how they are doing.
Those volunteers who are sponsors of an Elder at a particular food run look forward to seeing their Elder again (or meeting them for the first time). These are always special moments at the food run.
After everything is set up both outside and inside, the formal portion of the food run program begins. One of the first things to be done is pass out the food certificates which is quite a job at Leupp since everyone gets one. C.J. Robb who does a fine job coordinating all the logistics has an easier job here since envelopes are so much easier to handle than 35 pound boxes.
A light-hearted moment ensues when the oldest Elders are honored. One of the volunteers feels honored also as he gets to wear the special glasses  and lead us in a round of Happy Birthday.
When it's time for the Elders' portion of the giveaway, a number always step forward to share in their gratitude to the Program. Flora Smith and Betty Kelly have each donated several items.
Lola and her husband, Dean, sometimes treat us to a musical number.
Program giveaways to the Elders include special packages of useful items. These are lovingly assembled by volunteers at the warehouse in Salt Lake City before being transported to the food runs.
And weavers always receive yarn.
For the meal at Leupp, Lola typically has quite a feast for us. The senior center has a full kitchen and it's well-used. Some of the volunteers are assigned to the "food committee" and help Lola and her local crew prepare the food.
Sometimes some of the fry bread is cooked outside on a charcoal grill.
At the conclusion of one of the meals, Woody Smith rose to share his gratitude to the Program and its volunteers. Woody touched on how differently the Navajo people are treated by us as opposed to many of the Biligaanas (white people) that they come in contact with. Feelings of mutual respect and love abound at food runs.
At the conclusion of the event volunteers can shop for rugs and crafts brought by the Elders and their families. One of the unique things one will see on the reservation is items of clothing made from Blue Bird Flour sacks. Sheila McKinney models an outfit made from such material.
The food run ends about 2:00 in the afternoon. Volunteers are then free for the rest of the day. The drive back to Winslow often offers glimpses of the dramatic skies that this part of the world can produce.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing news and photos from the food runs. I especially appreciate the info from Leupp area as that is where the elder I sponsor lives. I hope someday to make the trip and help, but for now, this bring ANE and the elders a bit closer.