Southwest Indian Relief Council
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A Program of PWNA


Success Stories

 Hardwood or Hardship

Winter temperatures in the distant community of Nazlini in Arizona exposed the cold reality of hardship early. Located about 5 hours northeast of Phoenix, life was particularly hard as there was not any wood in this community. There was not a gas station or store where people could buy wood. Wood was the only source of heat and for cooking to most who lived in Nazlini.

The Navajo people lived in this community given to them by the U.S. government. Local wood, water, gas, or even a food crop was unavailable. It was a remote community with a lot of hardship. As Joann Dedman, the Program Partner said, “If anyone is remote, we are.”

All they knew was hardship
About half of the Elders in Nazlini had no electricity. Many of them used propane camp lanterns to light their homes at night. Even more had no running water in their homes and what is worse, there was limited access to water in this very dry region. The entire community had only 2 sources of water — the local chapter house or the windmill runoff.

SWIRC Winter Fuel - Ordeal 2

This meant the Elders in Nazlini either had to haul the water themselves or pay someone to do it. Paying someone to haul the water was more common as many of the elders lacked transportation. It was easy to see the vicious cycle of need that existed in the land where they live. Unfortunately, paying someone to haul water increased the cost of the water 1000 percent for elders and anyone in the community. Residents of Nazlini could buy water from the local chapter house for just 1 cent a gallon. So, to fill two 55-gallon barrels only cost them $1.10. But the hauling cost an additional $10. This was because they did not have a local gas station, and the haulers had to go outside the community to get the fuel to do the hauling. They had to have the water.

The second source of water, the windmill runoff, was really intended for livestock, but Elders used it because it was closer and cheaper. “This is not a good system,” Mrs. Dedman acknowledged, “but it’s all that we know. This is a very remote community.”

Wood in Nazlini was not much different; there was none.

The closest source was 28 miles to the north, but again, most elders lacked the transportation to get there.  Paying someone to go was just prohibitive.

So what happens when Elders run out of wood?
When asked about the options when the elders ran out of wood, the Program Partner said sometimes wood was available from a random source. This was typically a vendor who came in to Nazlini, parked his truck loaded with wood outside of the local grocery store, and put up a sign that says “wood for sale.” Typically, Elders had to pay a high price for each cord.  Unfortunately, they did not have a choice — if they wanted to cook.   

All of these conditions were what lead SWIRC program partner Joann Dedman to request and participate in the SWIRC Program's Winter Fuel service.  But doing so was no small chore.

SWIRC Winter Fuel - Ordeal 3a

Delivering tons of wood
Wood was heavy; each cord weighed 2 tons. Getting and delivering tons of wood was no small task. In fact, it was a big ordeal and expensive.  For SWIRC trucks to carry the wood, it first had to be cut, shrink-wrapped in half-cord bundles, and loaded onto the truck on pallets for a safe delivery. Then it had to be unloaded — and unwrapped — by Joann and her volunteers.

A forklift would normally cost $40 per hour to rent. So for Joann and her volunteers, each piece of wood ultimately had to be loaded by hand onto the Elders’ trucks or onto a truck for delivery to homebound Elders. This was a lot of hard work and a lot of hours by volunteers from the local TANF program. our staff delivered drinks and snacks to have on hand for these hard-working volunteers.

SWIRC Winter Fuel - Ordeal 1b

The Elders in Nazlini had been notified by their chapter house that they would be receiving wood. So about 40 of the Elders came with pickups, anxious and needing to get their wood home. The volunteers and staff at the senior center helped them load their wood onto the truck. Each Elder got one cord.

The rest of the deliveries were made by Joann and her team. Joann was the driver. On average, each home was 20 to 25 miles from the center, so each trip out took about 3 hours. This counted loading the wood, driving there, unloading, chatting with the Elder, and coming back. When a day was slow at her office, the Nazlini Senior Center, Joann would pay to rent a truck from the Navajo Nation fleet and 1 or 2 loads would be taken to the homes of the Elders who were still waiting. Some of the volunteers even used their own trucks to haul the wood.

Did the wood make a difference?
Some Elders just had a small supply of wood, not enough to last very long. They said the wood was very appreciated, because it’s so expensive and hard to get. All of the recipients were very elderly and therefore the cost to them (free) and the access (home delivery) were even better. They were all the more thankful.

SWIRC Winter Fuel - Hardwood or Hardship 3

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