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Ogden’s Own Distillery of Ogden, Utah delivers 485 gallons of hand sanitizer for distribution on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, at NECA Warehouse in Shiprock. Farmington Daily Times

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FARMINGTON — Reports about the novel coronavirus outbreak on the Navajo Nation caused a Utah-based distillery to donate and deliver 485 gallons of hand sanitizer.

Ogden's Own Distillery in Ogden, Utah has been producing hand sanitizer – marketed as Five Wives Hand Sanitizer – since March. The business has been selling the antiseptic but also donating it to first responders, fire departments and medical facilities in Utah. 

Owner Steve Conlin was moved to help the Navajo people after reading news stories about the public health crisis on the reservation, where positive cases for COVID-19 continue to climb amid increased testing and the extension of public health orders intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Such orders call for tribal members to wash hands frequently, which can be a challenge when families live in homes that lack running water.

"I had been following stories in The Salt Lake Tribune and The New York Times about the situation. I'm very aware of how bad the situation is and as time went on, it became clearer and clearer that if we had the opportunity to help out – we should," Conlin said in a May 21 telephone interview.

Conlin and his friend, Mikey Saltas, drove from Ogden to Shiprock on May 19. The product will be distributed by the Northern Diné COVID-19 Relief Effort, a grassroots organization that has been delivering food and essential items in Shiprock and to areas in the Northern Agency.

"This was pretty easy. I got into my truck, I drove for seven hours and I drove home," Conlin said.

When the men arrived in Shiprock, they met with volunteer, Eugenia Charles-Newton, to unload the product at the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority.

Charles-Newton represents Shiprock Chapter on the Navajo Nation Council. She explained that her work with the relief effort is separate from her service on the council.

"My expression was 'wow,'" she said about the moment she learned about the donation.

The hand sanitizer will be distributed to community members based on priority levels, she explained. 

While Conlin had the notion to help the Navajo Nation, Charles-Newton was working with her friend, Moroni Benally, who is Navajo and lives in Salt Lake City, to secure disinfectant products for the group.

Charles-Newton explained that Benally's networking eventually resulted in connecting with Conlin.

"A lot of it is reaching out to people that you know, and in this case, I wasn't expecting what we received," Charles-Newton said.

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Ogden’s Own Distillery of Ogden, Utah delivers 485 gallons of hand sanitizer for distribution on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, at NECA Warehouse in Shiprock. Farmington Daily Times

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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