Southwest Indian Relief Council
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A Program of PWNA

Success Stories

 Welcoming Wood

Our Program Partner, Jennie, was eager to participate in the special Winter Fuel service we offered to her community. Jennie is the supervisor of the Smith Lake Senior Center, and wood is a valuable commodity to the Elders of the community. According to the 2000 Census, a majority of Smith Lake residents use wood for their fuel — 65% to be exact!


Following discussions about the project over the phone, Jennie quickly followed up with a letter — she did not want to take any chances that her community would not receive the service. Her letter detailed the importance of the project and what it would mean to the Native American Elders in the Smith Lake community.

"The Elders are always searching for resources to get wood during the hard winter months," she said. With the senior center being the hub of activity for Elders, she could ensure that Elders would be assisted in completing the applications to receive the wood. And this extra support with applications is critical; most community members (nearly 90%) still speak Navajo.

Smith Lake is located in the Eastern Navajo Agency on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. The community is surrounded by flat mesas and canyons, and the Great Continental Divide passes through it. A trip to the nearest town, Gallup, takes just under an hour, but to shop in a populated city like Albuquerque, is nearly a two hour trip. Securing a load of wood is not only costly, but it can take several trips when your transportation resources are limited (almost 30% of Smith Lake households are without vehicles). The SWIRC Program's Winter Fuel service removes both of these barriers. A wood vendor is identified and hired to collect and cut the wood. They are also responsible for hauling all the wood to the community selected for the service. Once the wood is delivered to the Program Partner site, the wood is then distributed to the Elders. From forest to front door service!


The letter from Jennie was just one of many compelling factors. Between October 2009 and December 2009, high averages for Smith Lake dropped almost 30 degrees (from 56 to 28) and low averages dropped from 40 degrees to 16 degrees ( This year's temperatures seem to be following a similar trend, and it's clear that Smith Lake was the right choice for this timely service.

Support from friends like you helped make this service possible to these Elders. Thank you!

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