One local organization is doing what it can to make sure families in sparsely populated area are not forgotten.
Navajo Ministries, which encompasses the Four Corners Home for Children, the Navajo Nation Outreach, KNMI Vertical Radio station, as well as a counseling and prayer center, is preparing for its annual “Christmas Connections” program.
Items donated, such as blankets, clothing, toys and food, will be delivered to Navajo Nation pastors, who then will distribute the items to more than 300 families in remote areas of the Nation just before Christmas.
“We have people from all over the county, and even from all over the nation, who donate items such as knitted stocking hats,” said Navajo Ministries Vice President Eric Fisher. “We really appreciate all the support we receive.”
This year, Fisher said, the program is asking for donations of toys, health and hygiene supplies and other practical stocking stuffers, as well as adult coats (new or lightly used), school supplies, dish cloths, wash cloths, pot holders, and gloves and mittens.
“Anything that you could use in your own home, the families need out there on the Nation,” he said.
The remoteness of the reservation makes Christmas Connections an especially valuable program at this time of year, Fisher said.
“The Navajo Nation is the size of (the state of) Virginia, yet it's so sparsely populated. You can drive for miles and not see anyone. Add to that winter weather, bad road conditions and a lack of transportation, and some people are holed in for the winter,” said Fisher. “Many people we deliver to say they thought they'd been forgotten, and are so grateful that someone has actually come to them with food, clothing, toys, or something else they might need.”
For years, Gay Carlson has been helping organize the volunteer team that prepares the donated items for distribution. She and her husband, Don, find the work of reaching out to isolated families rewarding.
“Getting these items out to people who are alone and out in the boondocks is such a blessing to so many people, and the response is overwhelming,” she said.
Navajo Ministries began in 1953 to care for children who needed a secure place to call home until they could return to their own homes. Since 1989, more than 300 children have attended school at Navajo Ministries, and 25 are now being housed in the center's two comfortably-furnished Hogan-shaped homes.
Fisher said the down turned economy has caught up with Navajo Ministries, which does not receive any government funding. It depending instead on local and nation-wide donations.
“Our financing is down and we've been losing donors, yet the need for help has increased,” he said. “We currently have 25 kids in our homes, and we've had to turn kids away. It's heartbreaking that we don't have room for them.”
Fisher said Navajo Ministries appreciates the kindness and generosity shown by the community during the Christmas season.
“That's what the Christmas season is about, reaching out to those in need,” he said.
Anyone wishing to donate items or funds to “Christmas Connections” can through December 14 at the Navajo Ministries Connection Center at 2103 W. Main Street, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
For more information about the program or about Navajo Ministries, contact Fisher at 505-324-5260.