NTUA sends holiday cheer to military men, women

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

FORT DEFIANCE , November 21, 2012

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N avajo Tribal Utility Authority went into Santa Claus mode last week to send some holiday cheer to active military service men and women.

NTUA Human Resources Manager Paul Bemore and his staff, Chasity Jones, Tonia Navakuku, Cherilyn Delgarito and Debra Thomas packed 33 boxes with a variety of personal hygiene items and Christmas treats, including roasted pinon nuts and Spam.

As Bemore put together the U.S. Postal Service boxes, he said that the tribal utility enterprise has been mailing out holiday care packages to military personnel in-country and overseas for several years.

"We do the care packages every year because we're more than a utility company," he said. "We're part of the community and this is a way to say thank you to our men and women in the service. It also lets them know that we haven't forgotten about them."

Bemore said that last year they mailed out about 250 care packages, which was significantly more than this year's 33 packages.

He attributed the drop in packages to President Obama's efforts to begin reducing and bringing U.S. troops home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.

He explained that NTUA collects the names and addresses of military men and women from their employees.

The employees usually submit the names and addresses of relatives but they are more than welcome to provide the names of individuals that they'd want to receive a care package, Bemore added.

Navakuku said that as they were filling the boxes that they received three more names, which brought the total names on the list to 33.

Bemore said that a majority of the items that are packed into the boxes are bought by the NTUA staff with money collected from a variety of fundraisers during the year.

He estimated the mailing cost for each box to be between $30 and $40 dollars.

Bemore said that among the fundraisers, which includes the usual bake sales, is the annual "Red Thunder Rolling" motorcycle ride that is held during the Gathering of Nations powwow in Albuquerque in April.

Navakuku said that funds are generated from an individual fee of $25 that is collected from each of the motorcyclists who participate in the run, which starts at the Fire Rock Casino near Church Rock, N.M., and ends at the gathering at the University of New Mexico basketball arena.

Delgarito folded black tee shirts with the Red Thunder Rolling emblem on the front, which would be packed into the holiday boxes.

As Jones and Navakuku started packing the holiday boxes, Bemore asked again if more roasted pinon nuts would be arriving.

He was worried that there wouldn't be enough pinon nuts to put into all the boxes.

Bemore said that they try to include items that could only be found on the Navajo Reservation.

He picked up a five-pound bag of Navajo Agricultural Products Industry fry bread mix and a small box of Yanabah Navajo Tea.

As Bemore was putting together more boxes, Thomas walked in with a medium sized red basket full of roasted pinon nuts that were packed into small individual plastic bags.

Navakuku said that the 33 care packages were taken to the post office this week so the military men and women would receive their holiday cheer by Christmas.

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