On Sunday, November 22, a convoy of eight vehicles delivered the now traditional Thanksgiving giveaway to the Navajo Reservation for some 75 at-risk households, elderly and homebound in three communities.

Three vehicles from Salt Lake City joined five from Kanab carrying food boxes of turkeys, pies, produce, Blue Bird flour and water.

The Navajo Nation had just gone into total lockdown regarding Covid without any advance warning, making the food situation for many households even more dire, with no provisions in the homes. As a result of the travel restrictions imposed, we could not do the regular home deliveries with the health care workers.

And so the giveaway ended up being a transfer of the food by the side of the road to the vehicles of the healthcare workers and their helpers, who then distributed the food from there.

At the best of times the Thanksgiving giveaway is a heavy lift regarding the sourcing, packing and organizing the distribution. But this year seemed to bring challenge after challenge with the ever changing restrictions and fallout concerning Covid, both in Utah and the Navajo Reservation.

Working in teams to collect and pack the boxes was no longer a safe practice and food had to be ordered in smaller lots rather than bulk order. With the food chain disrupted most of the year sourcing even simple staple items like Spam was difficult.

Out of need, heroes are born. When things were starting to get too complicated to navigate for me personally (as chief organizer for many years), regarding medical issues, Jim Pashia and Marybeth Kuntz quietly took over, ordering, sourcing and packing food by just the two of them, when normally the work was done by teams.

They reached out to the community for support and donations. When Spam was hard to find, they sourced Spam from all over the place, from whereever they happened to travel – Montana, northern Utah – they worked tirelessly to make the giveaway happen. And they are already working on the giveaway for Christmas!  

At this time of gratitude, we salute the heroes in our community:

The team at Honey’s Marketplace for doing the best to obtain the food during the pandemic and balancing community needs and the aid to the rez.

The anonymous donors of the turkeys, generous financial support, the delivery team to the rez.

But especially, thanks to Jim Pashia and Marybeth Kuntz, who work tirelessly to serve our community, not just for this giveaway, but many projects all year around. Not to be recognized, but out of faith and a deep commitment to service to our community and country.