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Feed the Homeless and Toys for Tots event welcomed community members to participate

Feed the Homeless and Toys for Tots event welcomed community members to participate


A collaboration between several individuals, fueled by the drive to help and care for their community, came together to host a Feed the Homeless and Toys for Tots event in the Navajo Nation Shopping Center parking lot here Thursday, Dec. 22.

Stacks of blankets and rows of brown sack lunches sit along two folding tables with boxes of toys underneath. A line of cars forms, awaiting their turn to receive these items and the chance to enter a children’s bike giveaway.

Gray clouds fill the sky as cold weather settles over Shiprock, and individuals come wearing jackets and beanies to stay warm. Unsheltered individuals walk up to the tables and are provided with a blanket and a sack lunch.

Approximately 50 feet away from the event, an unsheltered individual, who has not made their way to the event, sits on a curb. Noticing this, Miss Atsá’ Biyáázh, 9-year-old Natalia Begay, and Miss Indian Shiprock High School, 16-year-old Octavia Morgan walk over to this individual to give them a blanket and food. Upon providing the items, both princesses hug the individual before walking back to the table.

‘The community cares’

Navajo Times | Sharon Chischilly
Ernest Chaco places a bike in his truck after winning the raffle Thursday during the Feed the Homeless and Toys for Tots project afternoon in Shiprock.

Conversing with a few of these unsheltered individuals and providing music for the event, Frank Smith shares how important it was for him to come out to the event and provide his time.

“A lot of these people around here, (like) the homeless, need some assistance,” Smith said. “You don’t know why or how they ended up here, all we’re doing is trying to help them out and say, ‘the community cares.’”

Choosing between a work dinner and this event was a simple decision to make, he shares. Smith submitted a leave request to ensure he could attend the event.

Smith was one of the individuals to whom Nate Ellison, father of Miss Atsá’ Biyáázh, reached out.

This event was sponsored by Miss Atsá’ Biyáázh and came with many responsibilities to ensure the event went as planned. Ellison played a vital role in establishing the event. He explains he reached out to many individuals who might be interested in participating in the event. In addition, he had to reserve a space in the parking lot for the event. As well as advertising the event through social media and flyers.

A list of individuals who participated and donated to the event is displayed on the side of a vehicle.

Running toward her father, Miss Atsá Biyáázh smiles and says, “Dad look at all those cars!”

Cars looped around a section of the parking lot, and approximately 40 were waiting in line.

Ellison returns a smile as his daughter goes back to give sack lunches to people in a car. He shares that supporting his daughter is very important to him. A question he received from his daughter regarding unsheltered individuals sparked the idea to create this event.

Community members come and go in their vehicles, each voicing their thank-you’s as they drive away. Some vehicles occasionally stopped to converse with Ellison, sometimes holding up the line, but Ellison shared that he does not mind conversing with the community members.

An event for all

The event was not only for feeding the homeless and providing toys for children, but the event was also open to all community members.

An elderly couple in a red Chrysler 300 parked about 15 feet away from the event after receiving a sack lunch and a blanket.

Jeannette Johnson, 63, from Shiprock, shares how much joy the event brings her and her husband. They plan to sit and watch the event until it is over.

“There is a lot of joy for me and my husband; he’s a cancer survivor. He enjoys these things; it’s good for him. There is a lot of happiness. We enjoy what they’re doing, what they provide for the community, and everybody gets involved. We appreciate them.”

True to their word, the red Chrysler did not leave until most tables were tucked away in cars.

For a single mom of three boys, the toys she received will help her this Christmas. Kaitera Lee showed up to the event with her four-year-old son, Nikolai Nez.

“Anything we get for Christmas helps,” Lee said. “I love that people do this because it helps give back to the community, especially for the people who don’t have money to give, like me. It really helps mothers who can’t afford gifts, even if it’s little gifts. It helps the kids feel special.”

The event closed when there were no more items to give out. The event was able to help about 200 individuals.

About The Author

Octavia Freeland

Octavia Freeland is a 2022-23 staff reporting intern for the Navajo Times.


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