Mormon Newsroom
News Release

Latter-day Saint Charities Participate in Donation to Navajo Nation  

Hundreds of volunteers donate COVID-19 relief supplies for Navajo tribal members

“Just to do something for them just fills our hearts,” said Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf, executive board member of the Christkindlmarkt SLC and wife of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partnered with Christkindlmarkt SLC and Navajo Strong, two nonprofit organizations, to sponsor the St. Martin’s Project, a community service initiative. Nearly 800 COVID-19 kits and 700 education backpacks were collected and donated for families on the Navajo Nation.

 

Dozens of volunteers gathered to help pack and load the donated items at This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, December 8, 2020.

“We didn’t know what the response would be,” said Sister Antje Uchtdorf Evans, executive board member of the Christkindlmarkt SLC and daughter of Elder Uchtdorf. “We’re just so overwhelmed by the kindness of the many people that have come to our donation sites.”

Christkindlmarkt SLC, which usually hosts over 100,000 visitors during its annual four-day German Christmas market, decided to serve the community in a new way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The cool thing is that we didn’t know of course who we would benefit this year, and we were thinking of different organizations and groups in our community. My mother had the wonderful idea of doing it for the Navajo [people],” said Sister Evans.

Sister Uchtdorf said it came as an inspiration to serve the Navajo Nation.

“We have a good relationship with the Native Americans. My husband and I, because of our church traveling, we often went to those places and visited the Navajos. ... They’re just wonderful,” said Sister Uchtdorf.

“We’ve already received a picture of a child holding one of these backpacks, and so they’re starting already to deliver these, and we’re so thrilled and so blessed,” said Sister Evans.

Community members were able to donate clothes, food and essential resources in three locations in Utah: Bountiful, Draper and Salt Lake City.

Plans are to pack and store the items in a warehouse in Blanding, Utah, where they will be organized, cleaned and sanitized before distribution.

The donated items include new backpacks, crayons, binders, notebooks, toilet paper, canned food and soap.

Christkindlmarkt SLC
Volunteers help pack and load boxes in a truck in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. The donated items include new backpacks, crayons, binders, notebooks, toilet paper, canned food and soap.2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
                         

“To date, we’ve served over 800 families on the reservation,” said Melissa Pickering, project coordinator for Navajo Strong. “All these bins are going to be distributed throughout Arizona and New Mexico.”

Pickering said that 30% to 40% of people on the reservation lack access to running water and electricity, including internet and, at times, cellular phone service.

More than 18,000 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the Navajo reservations and many Native Americans are struggling to meet their daily needs.

“There is very limited medical care on the reservation, which means a lot of people have to convalesce around all of their families,” said Elder Todd S. Larkin, an Area Seventy. “As a result, about one in eight people now on the reservation have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s the highest level in North America­­ – percentage of the population.”

The Church’s donation includes the transportation to Blanding, a semitruck full of bottled water, pallet jack, 500 boxes, 18 pallets, shrink wrap and tape. Service missionaries for the Church will help deliver the donations to Navajo residents.

Allyson Chard, founder of the Christkindlmarkt, started the organization 10 years ago. The mission is to gather communities together and serve with goodness.

“This is just more of a compliment to this community than anything else that people responded so generously, and families getting together, communities getting together, Church groups, Rotary Clubs — just groups of people getting together, saying ‘We want to do something together,’” said Chard.

“I think [of] who it’s impacting — most of the people who are giving,” said Chard. “I’m a better person because I’m a part of this, and I’m hoping that as people receive these backpacks or these COVID kits that they’ll realize that there is someone that lives a few hours away that really cares.”

Meredith Mehner, a Utah resident, is one of hundreds of individuals who donated items to the Navajo Nation.

“It’s a really hard time in the world, and the Navajo Nation has been affected disproportionately,” said Mehner. “So, it’s just nice to give back and do something.”

Jill Nreid, from Brighton, Utah, delivered 27 backpacks and eights bags of food donated from her community.

“I always come to the Christkindlmarkt, and so I was looking online to see if they were going to have it, and they aren’t, but they have this instead,” said Nreid. “So, I called the Relief Society president. I said ‘Hey, we’re not having our Christmas party this year, maybe we could do this instead.’”

The project was inspired by St. Martin, a man who was known to do kind acts.

“He was a Roman soldier [who] was riding through the countryside and came across a beggar [who was] asking for money. And St. Martin didn’t have any coins, so he took off his big old coat, cut it in half with a sword and gave half to the beggar, and then he rode on,” said Chard.

Each year, Christkindlmarkt organizes a St. Martin lantern parade to remember and commemorate the kind acts of St. Martin.

“It is such a special year for us. It started out being so sad because we had to cancel Christkindlmarkt, and now it’s turned into something of happiness,” said Sister Evans.

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