Community-based projects receive financial support from NTEC Community Benefit Fund

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Thirty community-based projects received financial boosts heading into the new year from the Navajo Transitional Energy Company Community Benefit Fund.

NTEC distributed $250,495 in grants on Dec. 16 to projects in Farmington, in San Juan County and across the Navajo Nation.

Theresa Benally, federal programs coordinator with the Window Rock Unified School District in Fort Defiance, Arizona, said the money will be used to provide bookshelves to kindergarten through third grade students participating in a reading program at two schools in the district.

Students need bookshelves at home for their books, an act that supports the district's effort to spark a love of reading, Benally explained.

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Navajo Transitional Energy Company employees Cortasha Upshaw, left, and Andy Hawkins recognize recipients of the NTEC Community Benefit Fund on Dec. 16 at the awards luncheon in Farmington.

"We want to make sure that our students have access to reading books, to support literacy at home," she said.

Navajo United Way in Window Rock, Arizona, is another grant recipient.

Laura Mike, the nonprofit organization's executive director, said the funding will buy benches for a bus shelter project.

She explained that Navajo United Way used a grant received this year from AARP to buy eight bus shelters, which they will install at bus stops on the tribal land.

Bus service is one means of travel on the reservation but shelters for bus riders are rare.

Leticia Crisp returns to her seat after receiving a check for Rising Stars Navajo Corporation from the Navajo Transitional Energy Company Community Benefit Fund on Dec. 16 in Farmington.

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"We figured, let's accommodate these people," Mike said. "They're workers, they're college students. They're doing business through the Navajo Nation, so let's accommodate them."

Navajo United Way hopes to get additional funding to buy more bus shelters, she added.

One local program that received funding was the Don't Meth with Us Foundation, which educates fifth graders in San Juan County and on the Navajo Nation about the dangers of experimenting with methamphetamine and other illegal drugs.

Cortasha Upshaw, community affairs coordinator with NTEC, oversees the Community Benefit Fund.

She said that since 2016, the fund has provided approximately $1.6 million.

It is open to nonprofit organizations and certified chapter governments. The application process takes place each year for projects that center on either education and youth development, economic development, energy sustainability or environmental stewardship.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the fund awarded projects that centered on COVID-19 relief last year and no awards luncheon was held.

Theresa Benally, federal programs coordinator with the Window Rock Unified School District, talks about the district's reading program during the awards luncheon for the Navajo Transitional Energy Company Community Benefit Fund on Dec. 16 in Farmington.

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"Thank you for applying for the CBF grant," Upshaw said to this year's recipients at the luncheon on Dec. 16 at the San Juan Country Club in Farmington. "Thank you for putting your communities ahead of everyone else. We try to do everything we can for our communities."

She added that the projects were selected by a committee comprised of employees at Navajo Mine. NTEC owns and operates the coal mine on the Navajo Nation.

"We were so glad to go through your applications and support all of the great work that you are doing in the community," Andy Hawkins, community relations senior manager with NTEC, said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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