Shiprock man hopes to raise $50k for COVID-19 relief efforts on Navajo Nation

Goal was raised from $8k because of need, organizer says

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Mike Gulick
  • Michael Gulick is the organizer of the GoFundMe campaign.
  • His partner, Jhana Wendling, is a medical doctor at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock.
  • To contribute to the campaign, visit https://gf.me/v/c/zb8/navajo-covid-relief.

FARMINGTON — A Shiprock man has mounted an ambitious online fundraising campaign to help pay for personal protective equipment and other gear designed to help health-care workers, patients and their families on the Navajo Nation.

Mike Gulick is the organizer of the GoFundMe campaign, which seeks to raise $50,000 over an unspecified period. As of the afternoon of Nov. 5, the drive had totaled $4,010 since it was launched on Oct. 25.

The drive had an initial goal of $8,000, but Gulick said he increased it dramatically this week because he believed the first target was insufficient.

"There's such a widespread need for equipment," he said, explaining that the funds raised by the campaign first would go to purchased gloves for health-care workers, oxygen monitors and a large-format printer, and that any subsequent funding would go for various other supplies.

Gulick understands those needs very well, as his partner, Jhana Wendling, is a medical doctor at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock. The two were living in Montrose, Colorado, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and Gulilck said Wendling wanted to move to a place where her talents were needed the most.

"She contacted the hospital in Shiprock, and it quickly became apparent her help was needed there," said Gulick, a film and video editor who is pursuing a graduate degree in mental health counseling.

Since Wendling began working at the Shiprock facility, Gulick said, hospital staff members have lost four of their coworkers, he said.

"They usually begin each day with a moment of silence to honor that loss," he said. "These are people who are actually putting themselves in harm's way. … I thought, 'We really need to reach out to the community because people aren't aware of how desperate this situation is.'"

Gulick plans to use the money raised from the campaign not just to purchase PPE or other equipment for use at the hospital, but to provide financial assistance to the people living on the Navajo Nation who have endured terrible hardships from the pandemic.

He talked about families that have been severely impacted by the virus and who struggle to meet their financial obligations with the economy floundering because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, he said, they remain positive about life in the face of such challenges.

"They are extraordinarily resilient people," Gulick said, noting that some of them have lost multiple family members, but they have remained optimistic despite their grief.

"That's a testament to their strength," he said.

Gulick and Wendling have promoted the fundraising campaign on their social media accounts and through their friends, but there already is evidence their message is spreading beyond their immediate circle of acquaintances. Gulick said contributions had been received from people as far away as California, Minnesota and North Carolina, along with several donations from folks in New Mexico and Colorado. One anonymous donor pledged $1,000, while two others donated $500 and another pledged $300. That has allowed the total to climb quickly, Gulick said.

"It's been great to see the generosity of people," he said.

Gulick said he understands that everyone is ready for the pandemic to be over, but he said the reality is that there is a second wave that is again exacting a heavy toll on the Navajo Nation. He urged anyone who has not donated to the campaign to consider doing so.

"If there's anything people are able to do, even the smallest amount will make a difference," he said.

To contribute to the campaign, visit https://gf.me/v/c/zb8/navajo-covid-relief.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.