NAVAJO NATION, Arizona—What started as a simple fundraiser in the Moroni Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turned into much more, including building a home for a needy, 89-year-old Navajo woman in just six and a half days.
During COVID, the Moroni Stake conducted a fundraiser to ship basic living supplies to the Navajo reservation. Fundraising chair Liz Clawson anticipated getting a horse trailer full of supplies. She ended up taking a semi trailer plus a few horse trailers full of supplies to New Mexico.
The Navajo reservation is divided up into areas called chapters. Clawson was able to unload the supplies at three different chapters, but she was not able to cover the full reservation.
One of the chapter presidents asked her when she came back to come to his chapter. She told him that there were no more supplies, and it was a one-time thing, but he insisted she meet a woman in his chapter when she returned.
Shortly after the trip, Clawson returned with a few boxes of supplies. That is when she went to meet Marilyn. She gave her a box of supplies, and while she needed the supplies as much as anyone, Marilyn insisted she take another box to someone else.
“Marilyn has a heart of gold and is always concerned for others even in her situation of having very little,” Clawson said.
Clawson has returned often to check on Marilyn and her three grandkids. During the winter months she watched Marilyn walk up a small hill to her outhouse and fall. So Clawson took a walker and has delivered hay to feed her small band of sheep and goats.
Marilyn lived in a small, dilapidated home with a backed up septic tank, shabby roof and broken windows, where she was taking care of and supporting her three grandchildren, one teenage girl and her two younger brothers.
Clawson wanted to help Marilyn have a better way of life. A project was already in the works to assist another family in another chapter with a home, but proof of property ownership made it so the home could not be built.
Rather than scratch the project, Clawson switched it to a project for Marilyn.
The Clawson family went to Marilyn’s, or grandma’s as she insisted on being called, a week early to pour the cement pad and rough in the plumbing before the main group of volunteers arrived.
In mid-June, volunteers, two of whom were Native Americans living on the Navajo reservation, and nine of whom were children ages 8 to 18, embarked on the journey.
Volunteers drove diesel pick up trucks from Wales, where the Clawson family lives, to New Mexico, and then New Mexico to Arizona, plus made many unaccounted-for trips to the hardware store, racking up more than 2,000 miles at $5.80 per gallon.
“All these people went to help us, and it’s out of their own pockets,” Clawson said. “Not to mention taking a whole week off work and donating $600 a person to purchase building materials. Not one person every complained.”
From June 13-18, everyone worked every day, from the littlest of hands to the big ones running the big equipment. Clawson said everyone who participated learned something new.
In a short six and a half days, the 700-square-foot home was completed.
“This experience was definitely not a vacation and full of hard work,” Joe Cook, a volunteer from Moroni, said. “One of the couples who came would put in a full day of work and then turn around and prepare our dinner.”
Cook said they all enjoyed each other as they worked.
Many times volunteers commented that if they had to choose a team to work with every day, they would choose the people working with them on Marilyn’s house.
Sanpete County residents donated everything from money, furniture, food, to doorknobs, bedding and towels—and more.
“I think one of the most amazing things about this service was the willingness of everyone to sacrifice not only their donations but their time away from their own jobs, businesses and lives, to serve and love someone they didn’t know,” Cook said.
“I truly believe we need each other to get through this rollercoaster we call life, and I’m thankful for this opportunity to serve with friends and family.”