Caring quilters extend hand to Navajo Nation
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
This master of literary rhyme wrote many profound lines in his time, but this statement about charity may be one of his most insightful.
Caring enough to make a bad situation better motivates a group of nine quilters who attend the Palisade Church of the Nazarene.
They mesh their talents to improve the lives of American Indians living on the Navajo reservation in the isolated village of Cornfields, Ariz., where 40 percent of the homes have no electricity or running water and the unemployment rate is a staggering 75 percent.
The quilting group formed “a couple of years ago to make quilts for the Navajo people,” says member Gyneeta Roe.
They meet at least twice a month at the church.
Now, they are planning a quilt show with nearly 100 pieces to be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 24 at Palisade Church of the Nazarene, 3595 Front St., in Palisade.
Some will be vintage quilts from church members’ collections, Roe says. Bed turnings are scheduled at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., during which multiple quilts are stacked on a bed and turned back one by one to reveal their individual patterns.
Admission to the show is free. In conjunction with the show, the quilters are sponsoring a silent auction of authentic Navajo rugs to benefit cancer patients on the Arizona reservation. Minimum bids will be about $200.
A dozen rugs will be offered for sale, and they will be delivered to the Palisade church by Elizabeth Johnson, community services coordinator in Cornfields, population 2,000.
Johnson is the wife of Pastor Justin with the Nazlini Church of the Nazarene in Nazlini, Ariz., a 40-mile drive from their home in Cornfields.
Johnson and her husband are natives of the reservation. She grew up in a family of 12 siblings in a traditional hogan, a dwelling built of earth walls supported by timbers.
“Because we were very poor and because I hated going to bed hungry, I asked my high school adviser to help me get into a high-paying occupation,” Johnson explains. She and her husband were fortunate to have the opportunity to earn college degrees, Johnson says.
After her education, she worked as a laboratory supervisor and medical technologist and later as a hospital administrator, retiring in 2000.
They choose to live in Cornfields in a home without running water or electricity, and Johnson works as community coordinator, trying to help residents with their many needs.
Because of her health care background, Johnson is especially concerned about cancer patients in Cornfields. Among them are three children, 6, 8 and 11 years of age, who must travel 200 or more than 300 miles for chemotherapy in Albuquerque or Phoenix.
They often must stay for several weeks to complete their treatment regimens.
Also, elderly veterans need financial assistance for transportation to be treated in the larger cities. Social Services usually helps with such requests one time, and the government budgets only $1,000 annually, “which we try to stretch among the many requests we receive,” she says.
“It breaks my heart to turn these people away because we do not have funds available for such purposes,” Johnson says. Through the Johnsons’ sister church in Palisade, she hopes to raise money for them with the Navajo rug sales. Each rug design is specific to a certain area of the Navajo reservation. The women of Cornfields — who have little or no education — learn to weave rugs from sheep wool at a young age as a way to support themselves and their families, she says.
Thanks to the efforts of the Palisade Nazarene Quilters, local sales of these Navajo rugs will allow families in Cornfields to better care for their sick children.
Drop by the church and enjoy the quilt show while you’re there. Dr. Seuss would be proud.