NEWS & EVENTS

AIS Distributes Jackets Just In Time For Winter Storms

March 3, 2020

On the Hopi mesas, 2 hours from a grocery store or gas station, sits a far flung community of Hopi rock houses. These homes are small with low roofs and are composed of dry clay and stone. The only heat sources are wood burning fireplaces, and most homes lack electricity. These homes are lit with candles, lanterns, or flashlights. Wood for the winter must be stockpiled because if a big storm hits there’s a risk of being stranded for weeks at a time due to bad roads.

The weeks over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays saw such storms in this community. Northeastern Arizona was hit with several inches of snow and temps as low as 10-15 degrees at night with a biting windchill. Luckily, a generous American Indian Services donor anticipated the difficulties that some Native Americans will have staying warm this winter. Together with his connections at King’s Camo he was able to acquire 1,275 brand new, heavy duty winter jackets and donate them to American Indian Services. We distributed them to 4 different reservations that we knew had a citizenry in need of warm winter clothes. The jackets were handed out in early December, just in time to keep the recipients safe from the recent cold snap.

The jackets were distributed to the Rosebud reservation in Idaho; the Pineridge reservation in South Dakota; the Hopi reservation in Arizona; and the Navajo reservation in Utah and New Mexico. Everywhere our people went, they were met with gratitude. Farrah Klein, our Tuba City, Arizona PREP director reported, “I went door to door and gave the jackets to people I knew really needed them. My family helped and we went around until 10 o’clock at night. We went to one trailer where there were no windows. Their home was completely boarded up with plywood to protect from the cold. They were very happy and grateful to receive these good quality jackets. Many of them didn’t have any coats, or if they did their coats were torn. I made sure that all the adults and kids who desperately needed the coats got them.”

Kari Denny, a motivational speaker and the sister of our AIS PREP director Roland Denny, told us that she collects and distributes clothes and supplies to her community in Kayenta, Utah year round and having these jackets was enormously helpful. “We took jackets to the elderly and they were so happy. They said, ‘Now I don’t have to borrow a jacket.’ I also went around town to people on the streets and gave them jackets. I still see them weeks later and they’re out there wearing them every day. They all said ‘Thank you American Indian Services,’ and some even cried. They’re very appreciative. Many of the elderly still herd sheep for their livelihood, so they go through warm clothes quickly because they’re out in the elements. They asked whether I had socks and gloves, which occasionally I do. So I’m hoping to get more of those next year that I can give out along with the jackets.”

Our jacket donor also wanted to make sure that the children had toys this Christmas, so he provided wooden cars for us to distribute. Our AIS PREP-Pocatello site director Sunshine Shepherd gave out 500 of them at the Fort Hall Reservation’s rec center Christmas pro-gram. Every year the older tribal children put together stockings for the younger kids with donated toiletries, candy, fruit, and a hat. They put the wooden cars on tables with the stockings and Santa’s elves handed them out. The children loved the cars and the program’s organizers repeatedly thanked Sunshine for American Indian Services’ contribution.

A lack of educated citizenry causes many difficulties for a community, the main one being poverty and the vulnerabilities it exposes them to. These experiences this winter reaffirm our belief in the AIS mission to provide quality education to Native Americans in need. The more Native Americans are able to receive college degrees, the more they will be able to help their communities build the infrastructure needed to keep them warm and safe.

The AIS donor plans to do another jacket and toy drive next year. If you are interested in participating please contact us at ais@americanindianservices.org.

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