Utah Knights of Columbus launch efforts to help Navajo Nation
Friday, Jun. 19, 2020
Courtesy photo/David Webb
Knights of Columbus from Council 11246 (from left, Randy Rhoads, David Webb and Tom Hershman), collect food and supplies for Navajo families.
CEDAR CITY — The Navajo Nation, which occupies a 17.5 million-acre reservation in southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico, has seen almost 300 deaths from the novel coronavirus. Of almost 157,000 people living on the reservation, there have been 6,378 active COVID-19 cases.
Hearing of the plight of the Navajo Nation, the Utah Knights of Columbus have in recent weeks launched the Navajo Nation Relief Drive.
“The Navajo community of Utah has been hard hit by COVID-19,” State Deputy Greg Keller said. “San Juan County, the home to most of the Navajo community in Utah, has the second-highest incidence of COVID-19 in the state; it has the highest rate of COVID-19 per capita in the country. Coupled with the already high poverty rate and the virtual elimination of tourism, the primary source of income in the area, our brothers in Christ in the southeastern corner of our state are clearly hurting very badly.”
Thirty to 40 percent of the Navajo people there do not have electricity or running water. They also have limited access to health care, and often live in isolated areas.
“Because of the remoteness of how folks live on the reservation, it has really exacerbated the problem,” said Dave Webb, Grand Knight of Father Valine Knights of Columbus Council 11246 in Cedar City.
Seeking ways to help, Webb reached out to Bud Frazier of Navajo Strong, an organization formed to help the Navajo people during this crisis. Frazier, a member of the Navajo Nation and a registered nurse, lives in Utah County but spent much of his youth on the reservation with his grandparents. He was moved to action in April when his great-aunt and great-uncle died from the coronavirus.
Each weekend, Frazier and a group of volunteers take supplies to the families on the reservation. Each trip can involve more than 1,000 miles as they drive to the remotest of areas to reach families living there.
The need is great, Frazier said. Much of the aid that is meant for the Navajo people through the CARES Act has been delayed by bureaucratic red tape.
Frazier said his organization has already helped more than 300 families but still has requests for close to 400 more. Every week he receives new requests. Many of the stories he hears of those affected by COVID-19 are heart-wrenching, he said.
For example, a young mother of a newborn reached out for help this past week, he said. Following her child’s birth, she had been hospitalized for 28 days with COVID-19, had been intubated for most of that time and had endured a tracheotomy. Returning home to five other children, with no running water or electricity, all she asked for was a battery-operated breast pump or a generator and electric pump so she could care for her baby.
The Utah Knights are asking for donations to help Frazier and his organization continue to serve the needs of the Navajo people.
Although Navajo Strong has several donation drop off locations along the Wasatch Front (contact Frazier at firstname.lastname@example.org for details), such sites are rare in the rest of the state. So the Cedar City Knights have set up collections at Christ the King Parish on Wednesdays, 8:30-9:30 a.m.; Saturdays 3:30-5:30 p.m. and Sundays, 9:45 a.m.- noon.
In addition to the food/supplies drive, the Knights will be putting donation cans at businesses around the city. They also have established an online portal for monetary donations (see below).
“We’re off to a good start and we’re hoping to expand it,” Webb said. “Folks seem to be quite interested in helping the Navajo out. Many, many folks in our area have some kind of family ties or connection to the reservation.”
Along with the Knights’ efforts in working with Navajo Strong, in Magna, Knight Anthony Strong, whose aunt is Native American, is collecting supplies at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish for the White Cone, Ariz. community. They plan to distribute their supplies to the community members in need by the end of the month. Contact Strong at email@example.com for information.
Donate to the Navajo Nation
There are several ways to donate to help the Navajo Nation.
Mail checks payable to the Utah State Council with “Native American Relief” in the memo line to the Utah Knights of Columbus State Secretary at 215 East, 100 North, Kaysville, UT 84037-2001.
Make an online donation at https://checkout.square.site/pay/757018ed63484a5f9a9a4b7d79618caa
Items most needed for the Navajo Nation and Whitecone communities are water, flour, baking powder, non-perishable and canned food such as Spam, canned chicken, ramen noodles, beef jerky, dry mashed potatoes, canned coffee, tea, Kool-Aid, Tang; hygiene items such as toilet paper, liquid hand soap, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes; personal hygiene items; first aid items (Band Aids), Tylenol, ibuprofen, diapers size 1 to size 5, diaper wipes; paper towels, dog and cat food and small spray bottles.