Published January 10, 2017
JOSEPH CITY, ARIZONA —Hope is everything, especially for foster children.
It was a message of hope that brought Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez to the Native American Outreach Ministries, Inc. on Jan. 8. The NAOMI House, as it is known, is a non-profit foster home with the mission of providing a safe and loving home to native children in need.
Vice President Nez first visited the NAOMI House on Dec. 28, 2016, to deliver toys that were donated by the Ranch Church in Leupp, Ariz. and the Faith Works Church in Sedona. Additionally, knitted scarves, blankets and hats made by Hooks and Needles Senior Activity Center of Fountain Hills were also distributed.
His most recent visit was the result of the Give Beck Coat Drive, an initiative that was spearheaded by James Andrew Beck of Irvine, Calif.
“We appreciate the generosity of James Beck and the many people who donated coats to the Navajo Nation. Today, these coats went to native foster children in northeast Arizona. It truly was a blessing,” Vice President Nez said.
Volunteerism, fellowship and giving back to communities through self-sufficiency have been tenets of the Begaye-Nez administration since President Russell Begaye and Vice President Nez took office in May 2015.
Sixteen-hour work days on weekends and holidays are not uncommon for the Navajo leaders, who lead by example out in the tribal communities. In 2016, a community service initiative held in tandem with the tribal fairs was launched.
Eleven families in need were assisted through home renovations that ranged from roofing houses, repairing ceilings and walls, painting and other repairs. Local churches provided the building material and Office of the President and Vice President provided the volunteers to get the work done.
“In the past, the Navajo people were self-sufficient and we helped each other to overcome challenges. We are calling for a return to these fundamental values, especially T’áá hó ájít’éego t’éiyá,” Vice President Nez said. “The Navajo philosophy of self-reliance and doing for yourself.”
The guiding force behind the recent coat drive was steeped in a similar effort.
In 2011, Beck gave away everything he owned and went on the road to live a life of charity for one year. His pay it forward adventure served one family for three days in each of the 50 states. Most were strangers.
In February 2012, he was serving in Ariz., on the Navajo Nation, and on the heels of a challenge.
“While certain aspects of my trip were exhilarating and inspiring, others left me bruised and broken. The Navajo people took me in and treated me like family. I fell in love with the people and the culture,” Beck said.
A month ago, after discussing plans with his wife, Beck decided to have a coat drive for the Navajo Nation.
On January 7, Beck distributed coats at the Ft. Defiance Chapter House, with musical entertainment provided by Muddy Soulz, Rippy and His Sillyettes, I Don’t Konform, and Born of Winter. Coats that were not distributed were taken to Cornerstone Ministries for distribution and the NAOMI House.
Beck was appreciative of the efforts of Jerold Cecil, band manager of I Don’t Konform, for his servant leadership and assisting with organizing the coat drive and entertainment at Ft. Defiance Chapter House.
“Jerold is a significant person who was crucial to the success of our work. This is an example of what great things can happen when good people work together, trust each other and are good to each other,” he said.
In all, more than 300 coats were collected. The jackets included such name brands as North Face, Columbia, Nordstrom, Gap, Nike, and Disney to name a few.
“I went door-to-door throughout my neighborhood. Lifeguards in Venice Beach pitched in. Coats were collected from artists in Los Angeles. Even while I was back in Washington state during Christmas, I got a bunch of coats,” he said.
Growing up in Puget Sound, near Seattle, Beck said his parents had a foster home. The family took in kids off the streets, often runaways and those who tried to commit suicide.
Because money was tight, often due to food costs, there was no chance of having nice clothes and coats.
“I was often embarrassed because other kids at school had much nicer clothing than I did. When I reached out to my community, I made sure that people gave nice coats that looked good,” Beck said.
Vice President Nez commended the altruism of Beck and others working to make a difference in the world. Empowering communities through tangible action is the key, he said.
Beck’s message to the Navajo people was straightforward: “Be kind to one another. Serve each other. Give other people a chance. You may find that the stranger sitting next to you is your best friend.”
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