Friends and neighbors
As is so often the case, the worst of times can bring out the best in people. Like everyone else in the world, our area of southeastern Utah, and especially the vast Navajo Nation, are going through a difficult struggle during the coronavirus pandemic.
In one of the most isolated areas of the nation, basic human needs are difficult to obtain and Navajo families, especially the elders, are in acute need of nutritional assistance.
We here at Twin Rocks are doing our part to help, and when it became necessary to close the café under the order of local government, we were faced with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that could not be used.
That is when Frances Van der Stappen, our café’s general manager, swung into action. She and several helpers put together large food boxes and called in our cook and wait staff to come and get the supplies for their families.
At the same time, an ad hoc group of community volunteers were also gearing up to serve others.
In the past few years, Bluff has seen a core of younger folks move to town and become involved in a number of worthy projects.
Since most of Bluff’s population is older than sixty, the ideas and energy of these young people are bringing the promise of a new generation to those we lovingly refer to as “Bluffoons.”
Dan and Joselyn Meyers, a couple with extensive backgrounds in media and financial planning, moved to town and volunteered to lead a renaissance of the annual Bluff Arts Festival in October.
Amanda Podmore, formerly on the staff of Friends of Cedar Mesa and now a consultant with the National Parks Conservation Association of Southeast Utah, contributes her energy and understanding of local issues and needs.
Amanda began to assist Frances in distributing the café’s excess inventory of food and with the need came an opportunity.
The Rural Utah Project is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering underrepresented voters in rural Utah through training, voter registration, and issue advocacy.
Their staff helped secure funding to provide basic food for people living in some of the most remote areas of the Navajo Reservation, especially those in the ultra-isolated Navajo Mountain region.
The problem was obtaining the food and organizing its distribution.
This was when Steve and Frances became involved, offering the Twin Rocks Café dining rooms as headquarters for the project. The tables and chairs were cleared away and the area was turned into an impromptu warehouse, complete with a loading dock
We already work closely with Shamrock Foods, a family-owned, wholesale grocery operation that supplies the café. By working with Dave Christopher, our local Shamrock representative, we were able to cut through lots of red tape so that food can be quickly procured and delivered right to our door.
That way, the volunteers didn’t need to establish a business relationship, establish credit, and do reams of paperwork to get started. Steve gave the OK to use our existing contract and facilities to house this temporary food distribution center.
Dave Christopher and Shamrock Foods became essential partners in the newly created Bluff Area Mutual Aid (BAMA) project.
Throughout the week, volunteers arrive to assemble boxes of commodities and deliver them to needy Navajo families. The boxes typically contain fresh products such as apples, oranges, onions, and carrots.
Staples such as flour, baking powder, and salt – the basic ingredients of fry bread – are provided as well as canned milk, sugar, peanut butter, and dried soup mixes. Sanitizing products, toilet paper, bottled water, and other products are also included.
So even though the café is no longer serving local families, oil workers, and loads of travelers, we are doing what we can to help.
Frances best summarized the impact of the younger local volunteers, “It is great to have them here doing all this. They are a pleasure to be around – even if we do keep six feet apart.”
If you are able and would like to help, tax-deductible contributions can be made to BAMA, Rural Utah Project at Suite 130, 323 South 600 East, Salt Lake City, UT, 84102.