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SHIPROCK — A round of applause happened after shovels broke ground for a new wellness center here, a facility that has been a six-year dream for the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Program's Shiprock service area.

Char Begay, program supervisor for the Shiprock service area, talked about efforts to situate the modular building on an area located west of the Shiprock Youth Complex.

"We just want our community to be healthy," Begay said.

The program is using $1.8 million it secured from the federal Special Diabetes Program for Indians grant and $250,000 from Shiprock Chapter, she said.

The building will provide space for the public to exercise and it will house equipment, a fitness room, shower areas, screening rooms, office and storage spaces and a classroom to provide nutrition education.

Those amenities align with the center's goals of nutrition education, diabetes prevention and physical fitness, Begay said.

"By the end of this year, the building should be up," she said.

The 9,998-square-foot modular building is under construction by Modular Solutions Ltd. After completion, it will be transported to Shiprock for placement at the 3.97-acre site.

The program is also constructing a wellness center in Crownpoint and an administration building in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

Among the entities the program worked with was the Shiprock Planning Commission.

"They have been the backbone of my project," Begay said. "I worked with this group for a number of years, trying to move this Shiprock wellness center forward. We've come a long way."

Viviene Tallbull, chairwoman for the commission, said many steps were taken to secure the land for the center, including the commission pursuing a lease transfer and meeting with architects and designers.

"This is a true celebration of a dream," Tallbull said.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez attended the groundbreaking ceremony. He said the center serves as a symbol in the community so people will think about health, nutrition and exercise.

"This wellness center here will give us the weapons – I always say, 'the weapons' – to combat these monsters in our communities," Nez said about the "modern day monsters" of diabetes, heart disease and depression.

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

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