Winning entities divide $200,000 from fund


FARMINGTON — Community-based projects ranging from a food distribution program to a group that builds trails on the Navajo Nation received a financial boost today.

The Navajo Transitional Energy Co. announced the 33 recipients for its Community Benefit Fund, which is geared toward helping nonprofit organizations and Navajo Nation chapters, in a luncheon today at the Courtyard by Marriott.

The entities that were selected were among 54 applicants, and $200,000 was divided among the recipients, whose selection was based on geographic location, population demographics and project descriptions.

Steve Grey, governmental and external affairs director for NTEC, said when the selection committee read the proposals, it was encouraging to see the variety of programs that help communities in San Juan County and on the Navajo Nation.

"It's touching when you see what people like yourselves do for the better of the community," Grey said.

Recipients were recognized one by one, and each one was handed a check.

Vicki Metheny, food programs director with ECHO Inc., said the funding her organization received will go toward the food distribution program that helps families and individuals in northwest New Mexico.

In previous years, ECHO — which stands for Economic Council Helping Others — received assistance from BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal, which operated a similar program until NTEC took over sole responsibility last year as part of the Navajo Mine acquisition.

"There are still an awful lot of families without jobs or with jobs that don't pay very much, so they're still looking to the community for help to put food on their tables and to have NTEC help us do that means a great deal," Metheny said.

She added the grant received by the nonprofit organization in 2016 helped serve 31,000 meals and assisted more than 1,300 people, approximately 40 percent of whom were children.

The Beclabito Chapter received funding for its program to install new solar-powered parking lot lighting for the chapter house, senior citizens center, administration and community health representative buildings, warehouse and picnic area.

Chapter manager Lenora Robinson said the project is part of an initiative to use alternative energy sources in the community, and the chapter is contributing money to the project.

"We have the funding right here. We don't have to wait for the funding," Robinson said holding up her purse containing the check.

Navajo Youth Empowerment Services for Diné Bikeyah is dividing its funding to support its bike program and trail-building project.

Rygie Bekay, course and aide station coordinator for the program, said NavajoYES acquires donated bikes. With the help of community members, the bikes are restored and donated to young people and adults.

Tom Riggenbach, the program's director, said the bike program and the trail-building project promote fitness on the Navajo Nation.

"It's great. NTEC has been supportive of the bike project for some time," Riggenbach said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and by email at

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