Summer Emergency Box Helps an Elder at Home
Many Native families find themselves under constant stress, whether facing food and water shortages, subpar housing and healthcare, or limited access to utilities and transportation. With the support of our generous donors, we aim to combat these inequities through our Summer Emergency Box service. These boxes go to Elders on selected reservations to help them weather summer events such as extreme temps, outages, and storms, providing items such as water, sunscreen, bug spray, nonperishable food, and personal protective equipment. One Elder benefiting from these services is Alyce, a 76-year-old Navajo resident of Kayenta, Arizona.
Growing up in the area, Alyce lived in the old Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) building, where her father worked at the power plant while she attended day school. Now retired, she worked for Peabody Coal Company as a payroll clerk before transitioning to secretarial work at the Indian Health Service (I.H.S.) Office of Environmental Health and Sanitation.
Widowed shortly after her retirement in 1991, Alyce became the legal guardian of five children from her immediate family in Ganado, Arizona, after their mother passed away. Now all grown, four of the children have moved away except one of the boys who stays to look after Alyce. The eldest member of her family, Alyce’s two brothers, and one sister live locally in Kayenta as well.
Irene, a cook at Kayenta Senior Center for 20 years, said Alyce and her siblings are regulars at the center: “I know all of them well.” While Alyce’s favorite meals involve blue corn meal and other traditional Native foods, Irene personally delivers meals to Alyce’s home whenever she has the chance.
Typically staying home to do yard work and clean up after her multiple dogs, Alyce and other Elders in the community are still extremely cautious of COVID-19. Serving curbside meals every day at the senior center, Irene adds, “We reopened but someone soon caught COVID, so we shut everything right back down again.” Partially diabetic, hard of hearing, and dealing with knee problems, Alyce emphasized you can never be too careful regardless of vaccination status.
As Native children are more than three times as likely to experience deep poverty compared to whites, the income inequalities and lack of shopping in tribal communities make it more challenging to access basic supplies. Receiving a combined monthly income of about $1,000 from social security and retirement, Alyce explained it is often difficult to afford supplies herself. “It’s not a whole lot, especially when you have bills… Electricity, propane, groceries, and gas are so expensive — even a two-piece pork chop is $9.00.” Alyce said, “[the summer boxes] are very helpful because I use a lot of those hand sanitizers around the house,” also mentioned the disinfectant sprays, wipes, and detergent she uses frequently. Irene added that the senior center does its best to distribute products evenly among Elders in the community.
Unable to drive herself, Alyce shares, “I don’t have a way of going anywhere, so I just stay home.” Her sister often travels to Page, Arizona, or Farmington, New Mexico, to get supplies that aren’t available in the local dollar store — each over 90 minutes one way. Without the summer emergency boxes, Alyce said she would only get the products she could afford at the time. “Some of us can’t afford to go to the store, and sometimes we don’t have money.”
Alyce is grateful for the summer boxes and donors like you, adding, “I appreciate it. Thank you for including me.” Your support today can help provide Native Elders like Alyce with essentials they cannot easily access.