Spreading Christmas Cheer One Meal at a Time

   By Partnership

Spreading Christmas Cheer One Meal at a Time

With the new year right around the corner, 3 in 4 Native families still find it difficult to keep healthy food on the table. To ease their worries this holiday season, the Navajo Relief Fund (NRF), a program of Partnership With Native Americans® (PWNA), provided holiday meal staples like turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and more to selected Program Partners so hundreds of Elders and community members could enjoy warm holiday meals on the reservation.

One Program Partner participating in this year’s Christmas Community Meal service was Tovina of the Sweetwater Chapter in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. Planning on feeding 400 community members, Tovina and her staff prepared their six turkeys in three different locations – in the administration’s kitchen, the conference room, and the Chapter House kitchen. She exclaimed, “It’s always busy, busy here!”

Sharing that they often save the organs and scraps from their turkeys for the stray dogs on the property, Tovina said, “We don’t waste anything; we use everything up.”

Growing up on the reservation, Tovina shared that she learned how to do everything her four brothers did, from using an axe to building fires outside. She had no electricity or running water as a child, adding, “We didn’t have any problem with that. It was just our life.”

Relaying her lessons to all workers at the Chapter and neighboring Sweetwater Senior Center, she tries to teach them a bit of everything, including building fires, cooking outside, and cleaning or decorating the house. Discussing how many people today don’t know how to live without electricity or running water, she shared, “We don’t have all the conveniences that others do; we have it hard here on the rez… The most important things to teach are independence skills like these.”

With COVID-19 still a threat to the tribe, Tovina and her staff distributed to-go boxes, and each community member accepted their warm meal with a smile and heartfelt “ahéhee” (“thank you”). Preparing for this day for over a week – including working overtime with no internet access – Tovina shared that she enjoys the holidays once the stress from cooking and event planning is over.

After the meal distribution, Tovina’s team finished their floats for a community-wide Christmas lights parade that evening. Happy to see the joy all their hard work brought to the community, Tovina added, “We’re here for the community, and we’re thankful that [NRF] is here for us.” Thanking NRF donors, she added: “Thank you for all the food and supplies, we really appreciate it.”

Donate to NRF to support passionate Program Partners like Tovina in bringing holiday cheer and warm meals to Native communities during the holiday season.

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