Electric Heat for a Disabled Elder in Need

   By Moderator

Concentrated poverty (ranging from 15-54% on any given reservation) disrupts every facet of life year-round, from food access to housing and transportation. Southwest Reservation Aid® (SWRA), a program of Partnership With Native Americans® (PWNA), alleviates some of the financial stress through its Winter Fuel vouchers service, where Elders in selected reservation communities receive a credit of $200 toward the cost of winter heat.

Recently, 96 Elders in New Mexico received vouchers for electric, propane or natural gas, thanks to SWRA and our Program Partner Cindy at the Mescalero Elderly Program. One elderly couple, Sterling and his wife Rosemary, will use their voucher for electric heat.

Sterling, now 67, enjoyed growing up in Mescalero, saying it was “really hot in summer and really cold in winter.” He often trapped horses and hunted with his father and uncle year-round as tribal members do not need hunting permits on Native lands. Sterling spent most of his life doing sanitation for the inn at Silver Lake on the Mescalero Apache Reservation, and later joined an elk patrol team for the final years of his career.

Rosemary was raised in the Taos Pueblo, later living in Zuni for 26 years before moving to Mescalero in 1996. After working for the Board of Indian Affairs (BIA), Rosemary worked for the local casino, then retired four years ago to take care of Sterling and her sister. Sterling deals with several chronic health concerns that make it difficult to get around on his own, so Rosemary often drives him to medical appointments in El Paso, Texas (120 miles away), or Roswell, New Mexico (87 miles away).

When Rosemary first married Sterling, he had no running water or electricity. Now, Rosemary shared that they “can’t catch up” on their bills as the cost of utilities keep rising. With a combined social security income of roughly $1,400 per month, “there are some bills we just couldn’t pay this month.” Despite financial struggles, Sterling still enjoys painting, singing his gospel music and the annual “Elder hunts” while Rosemary enjoys time sewing or cross-stitching.

Appreciative of the fuel vouchers as they frequently get snowed in, Sterling said the extra funds will “really come in handy.” Rosemary added, “this will help us stretch what we’ve got.” She thanked donors for their contributions, saying, “God bless the donors… without them, there’d be dire straits.” Michaelene, the director of Mescalero Elderly Program, also shared, “We’re very grateful for everything and to have someone as creative as Cindy to take care of our Elders. All the supplies are put to good use.”

Donate to SWRA today to continue providing heat for disabled and isolated Native Elders like Sterling and Rosemary during the coldest time of year.