Sunday, August 2, 2015

Reaching out to Southwest's Native Americans

Doylestown-area residents send supplies and money, and for the past three years have been heading west to help children and families.

Reaching out to Southwest's Native Americans


For the past 21 years, Doylestown-area residents have been supplying Native Americans in the southwestern United States with blankets, clothing, school supplies, veterinary services and scholarships. For the past three years, volunteers with the group, Americans for Native Americans (ANA), have traveled to the Southwest to pitch in and bring supplies.

Last year ANA supported 11 schools in the Food for Kids Backpack program ($38,000), classroom curriculum and school supplies ($4,866), clothing and shoes ($6,772), eyeglasses ($4,335), nursing scholarships at the University of New Mexico-Gallup ($15,800) and veterinarian visits twice a year ($9,500).

This year, 20 volunteers worked about 440 hours in Gallup, New Mexico, from Oct. 20 through Oct. 27. They delivered $200 in school supplies to the Mariano Lake School and $300 in children’s underwear to Standing Rock School. Group members bought 32 pairs of children’s shoes and layette sets for two mothers.

Here is ANA board member Janet Grove’s account of this year’s trip:   

This fall, 20 residents from the Doylestown area traveled to the Southwest for a work and cultural trip. They were fortunate to experience brilliant blue skies with white puffy clouds and amazing rock formations in wide open spaces, but more important, they learned first-hand about Native American culture and had an opportunity to work at The Community Food Pantry in Gallup, New Mexico. I was privileged to be part of this group, which consisted of members and friends of Doylestown Presbyterian Church. This was my third year to experience this trip and I now serve as a Board member of Americans for Native Americans (ANA).

ANA has been helping Native Americans of the Southwest since 1991 when Bill and Connie Eastburn of Doylestown learned that 17 Navajo men had died the previous winter due to exposure. That year, over 2 tons of blankets were sent to those who needed them to survive the cold winter. Currently ANA assists with Veterinarian Clinics, Nursing Scholarships, GED testing fees, eyeglasses for needy children, The Community Food Pantry and its Food for Kids Backpack Program, Family and Child Education (FACE) and other school programs, to which books, school supplies, clothing and new shoes are donated.

Our group assisted with many projects at The Community Food Pantry. We prepared commodity food boxes to be given to those in need, including sorting and bagging potatoes and onions, apples, and eggs. Others assisted outside in maintaining the new raised garden beds and the hoop houses, and planted 50 fruit trees which will provide fresh produce and fruit for the Pantry’s clients.

The part of our Pantry work that I find especially rewarding is helping with the Food for Kids Backpack Program. This program sends home a backpack filled with kid friendly, nutritious foods each Friday with 24 children from each of the participating schools. These children often have nothing to eat after their school lunch on Friday until they return to school for breakfast on Monday morning. We counted bins of peanut butter and jelly, cereal, and containers of peaches, to make it easier for the Pantry employees to assemble the backpack food for each school. Once a week, the food is picked up at the Pantry by a guidance counselor or teacher. One of the guidance counselors, picking up food for his school, told us that last year at Thanksgiving the backpack food was the Thanksgiving dinner for a family in his school. This year ANA funded 8 schools thanks to individual donations made by many to this program.

Our group also visited two schools on the Navajo Reservation, Mariano Lake and Standing Rock. We took with us school supplies, shoes, underwear, and baby items that had been requested by the principals and teachers. ANA funds and donations from our group purchased these items.  Mariano Lake has students who board Monday to Friday due to the distance they have to travel to school each day. Barbara, the house mother, explained the program and how they try to have a small gift for each child’s birthday, and items to motivate and reward their students. Often there are not funds for these items. ANA would like to be able to assist with this request.

Each year I am enthused by the work that is being done to help some of the first Americans, who are now less fortunate. With your help, we could do even more.

You can learn more about ANA’s programs on our website:

“Like” us on Facebook,

Donations can be sent to ANA, P.O. Box 490, Doylestown, PA 18901


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About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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