“NavajoStrong” brings hope, needed supplies to Navajo people
Ronald Reagan once said, “We can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone.”
After his elderly aunt and uncle died within the same month of complications from COVID-19, in the Tonalea, Arizona area, Bud Frazier decided to step in and help residents there, and in other areas of the Navajo Reservation.
“It’s tragic how COVID-19 has torn through the Navajo Reservation,” Frazier lament- ed. As an RN and former ICU Nurse of eight years, Frazier was aware of the serious ramifications the COVID-19 virus could have on people, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. And he was painfully aware of the impact it was having on residents of the Navajo Reservation. He reached out to his family on Facebook about the need to get supplies to people in isolated areas of the reservation. His family wanted to help donate supplies and then something unexpected happened.
“A reporter for FOX 13 news saw my Facebook post and asked for an interview with me. Then, things skyrocketed,” Bud said.
In the next three weeks the project, called ‘NavajoStrong’ took off. Donations of food, and supplies like cleaning products and sanitizer, bleach, firewood, animal feed and hay, seeds, water, toilet paper, paper towels, tools and money began to pour in from all over Utah and from across the country. Volunteers in Lehi and in Blanding have donated their time, sometimes long into the night, to fill countless plastic bins with food, household products and other items for delivery to isolated communities and individual homes all across the reservation. Then, they loaded trucks and large flatbed trailers with these items and set out to make their deliveries. Bud’s good friend Nate Anderberg, of Orem, has worked with him from the beginning, helping make deliveries on the reservation with Bud, and staying in his parents’ home in Blanding between deliveries.
Deliveries have been made to areas like Kayenta, Leupp, Chilchinbito, Tuba City, Kaibeto, Shonto and Tonalea, in Arizona, as well as Navajo Mountain, Montezuma Creek, West Water and other areas on the Utah portion of the reservation. Bud said his partner, and others in Lehi, have driven all the way to the reservation to make many deliveries to the Chapter Houses. Another volunteer, from the Tonalea area, delivers bins to homes. Items are left outside the homes and picked up by those living inside.
“The first week we personally delivered to 38 families and had a St. George volunteer deliver a pallet of water to Kayenta, and a volunteer from Enterprise, Utah delivered firewood and household supplies to Kayenta,” Bud explained. “The second week we delivered to 50 families, dropped off 50 bins and a pallet of water to Chilchinbito, had a volunteer from Cedar City drove a semi truck to drop off pallets of water, hay, supplies, shoes, and food donated by the Cedar City community. The third week we delivered to another 50 families, a trailer full of supplies, firewood and coal to Leupp, Arizona.”
Frazier’s family, in Blanding, has been on the front lines with many of these deliveries. Curtis and Teresa Frazier and their other three sons, Tyler, Shay and Travis (and his fiance, Jessika), have been busy collecting donations, filling bins with food and household items and loading trucks and trailers to deliver items. Teresa said her family lived for a time in American Fork, before moving to Blanding about twenty years ago. Since then, she explained, her children have learned about the Navajo culture and their heritage. They have seen the poverty of their grandparents and others living on the reservation, and they wanted to reach out to make a difference, during this pandemic that has hit the Navajo people so hard.
“This has been a big part of our life every week for the past three weeks,” Teresa smiled.
Teresa said she’s overwhelmed by the generosity of people they’ve never met, who made donations from as far away as St. George, Enterprise and Cedar City in southwest Utah and Ogden, West Valley City, Salt Lake, Clearfield and other areas of northern Utah. One donor from Enterprise donated 180 gallons of bleach and a load of wood to Kaibeto and Kayenta. A trucking company owner from Cedar City delivered full pallets of water (1900 bottles each), firewood and seed to Navajo Mountain. He also delivered a variety of items salvaged from a Wal-Mart truck that overturned. Someone also donated a 55-gallon barrel of chicken feed. Chicken feed and other animal feed, hay, firewood, tools, water and such items are always needed by those in isolated areas of the reservation.
“We even had a donor from New England give $150. Most of these folks have never been here and didn’t know anything about this area,” Teresa explained. “They give unconditionally yet they will never meet the people they are helping.”
Then there are the local folks who have helped support the “NavajoStrong” effort. The Blanding 2nd Ward came to Teresa and Curtis Frazier’s home the first week and stayed until 11 p.m., helping fill bins and getting them ready to deliver. The 2nd Ward youth came back and helped another time. People from Utah State University Eastern, Blanding Campus have helped. Trent Herring and Blue Mountain Hospital donated much needed sanitizing spray, and Dallin Redd of Ace Hardware gave a 50% discount on all items purchased for delivery, including axes, shovels and other tools. They’ve all worked together and teamed up with Utah Navajo Health System, Inc. to make sure elderly residents and all those in need on the reservation are not forgotten and have the supplies they need.
“A lot of the elderly people on the reservation don’t get out a lot and if they do get to a store they miss out on items they need,” Bud stressed. “The items we deliver include toilet paper, paper towels, water, bulk flour and other bulk items in 5-gallon bags and in Ziplock bags. Every home gets six cloth masks, donated by Young Living and several community members in various communities. 200-300 cloth masks have been donated. We also include gloves donated by a local restaurant that allows “NavajoStrong” to purchase them in bulk. And we just received 1,000 gallons of Hand Sanitizer from a local Utah company, Streamline Manufacturing. We plan to distribute these to the small community health centers, like Utah Navajo Health System, Inc., and first responders on the reservation.
“It’s unbelievable to see the community of Utah step up. They will never meet those they are helping. And all this from a news story,” Bud said. There have actually been two stories on FOX 13 News. “The hard part is delivering to families in many hard-to-find places,” he adds. “One guy from South Dakota contacted us and told us how to find his mom. It’s heartbreaking. One lady had no cleaning supplies, no car, she couldn’t hitch hike to a store. She has kids, but she couldn’t pay for her cell phone service so she couldn’t call anyone for help. We got her supplies and paid her cell phone bill for the month so she could have a cell phone.”
Families needing help, or seeking help for loved ones, are able to fill out a form on the “NavajoStrong” Facebook page and provide information such as where they live, whether members of the household are 65 and older, if they have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, are they being quarantined, what are their needs and is there anyone else in the home? This information is then used to help locate those in need and deliver the needed items.
The “NavajoStrong” project has been a labor of love for Bud Frazier, his wife Candee, their family and friends in Lehi, and Bud’s family in Blanding and all those friends and supporters, who have been instrumental in making the project a success. It hasn’t been easy by any means but it has been worth it. Bud, who now works as a clinical operations manager for a Federally Qualified Health Center in Provo, which serves the underserved, plans to continue with the “NavajoStrong” project as long as it is needed. If you would like to donate items to “NavajoStrong”, or learn how to help with deliveries or in other ways, see the “NavajoStrong” Facebook page or visit their website www.NavajoStrong.org. They would appreciate any donations or help you can offer.
An old Chinese Proverb says, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
If old Chinese Proverbs are correct, Bud Frazier, his family, friends and all the volunteers who made “Navajo- Strong” a huge success, should be happy for a long time.