In November and December, American Indian Services created two special projects to provide for some of the emergency needs of our constituents. The first was a coat donation, where we distributed brand new, heavy duty King’s Camo coats to tribes throughout the Rocky Mountain region. The second was a drive in partnership with Christkindlmarkt SLC and Navajo Strong for COVID-19 and education supplies that were distributed on the Navajo Nation. With COVID hitting tribes so hard, and many families living in isolation, these supplies were greatly needed and appreciated.
Coming Together To Make A Difference
An anonymous donor partnered with King’s Camo to provide 1,273 heavy duty winter coats embroidered with the AIS logo for distribution to needy families in Blanding UT, Rapid City SD, Tuba City AZ, Hopi AZ, Pocatello ID, Gallup NM, and Skull Valley UT. The coats were distributed by our contacts in each area who are familiar with the needs of their communities.
The Skull Valley tribe has been completely shut off to visitors due to COVID restrictions. Their coats were dropped off at Warrior Spirit Recovery in Tooele, and the tribal social work program distributed them to the community. In the other areas our AIS PREP site coordinators were key in distributing the coats. In Rapid City, SD our site coordinator, Joanna Studt worked with the local school principals, guidance councelors, and teachers to find families who were the most in need of coats. When asked about her experience Joanna said, “Most of the coats went to students and parents of students. A teacher reached out to me asking for a coat for a mother and her two children who had just moved to the area after leaving an abusive relationship. She left in a hurry and needed a coat for herself and her two middle-school children. I was very thankful I had coats for all three.”
One of the educators Joanna worked with was Theresa Lessert, Principal at Our Lady of Lourdes school in Porcupine, SD. She said that those who received the coats were extremely pleased to receive them.
“They were in need of something to help them get through the winter chill. They were pleasantly surprised and very excited, especially to see they were brand new and not handed down.”
When asked about how tribes in her area were doing Theresa said, “Our COVID numbers are increasing which makes life difficult, but that is across the country. It is very hard to get out to get groceries and necessities for the families as travel is limited.” She said that this isolation has been tough on students. “Our students are doing their best online. Being a social race, they are having a difficult time being isolated from their peers. But we do try to help with social zoom meetings and visits as much as we can. We also have a great bunch of teachers who make a point to reach out and check in with their students to make sure they understand we are all in this together and care for each other, and will do the best we can until we can come back together.”
To address the problems Theresa mentioned of the difficulty getting groceries and the struggles students are having with online schooling, American Indian Services Gala Board member Carolyn Crawford partnered with Christkindlmarkt SLC and Navajo Strong to organize a drive titled the St. Martin’s Project, collecting items for COVID and education kits. Normally the Christkindlmarkt runs for 4 days during the Christmas season, providing a German market for the Salt Lake City community to enjoy and celebrate the season. But because they couldn’t open this year due to COVID restrictions, they decided to serve the community in a different way and started the St. Martin’s Project. They named the project after St. Martin because the saint was known for cutting his cloak in half and sharing it with a beggar to protect him during a snow storm.
The drive provided everything from backpacks and notebooks to jump ropes and crayons for the education kits, and an assortment of food, cleaning, and hygiene items for the COVID-19 kits. These efforts provided nearly 800 COVID kits and 700 education kits for residents on the Navajo Nation. “Just to do something for them fills our hearts,” said Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf, who is an executive board member of Christkindlmarkt SLC. “We’re so overwhelmed by the kindness of the many people that have come to our donation sites.”