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Answering the call

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Danielle Yepa Gunderson unloads a box of diapers from a vehicle as Shanna Croney and Molly Rennie stack donations along the curb at Sandia Prep. The school collected supplies on Tuesday for the Navajo Nation during the COVID-19 crisis. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

For health care workers and families battling coronavirus on the Navajo Nation, masks and gowns are essential but often in short supply. Environmental health researchers with the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque created the “Tribal Clinical Relief Support” GoFundMe account to collect money and supplies for Navajo hospitals and communities.

Molly Rennie, the director of outdoor education and an English teacher at Sandia Preparatory School in Albuquerque, organized a donation drive at the school to help the cause. The school sent an email to all past and present Sandia Prep students and teachers asking for money, diapers, homemade gowns and masks for the Navajo Nation.

“I work at a very community-oriented school, so I wasn’t surprised to see this huge outpouring of support,” Rennie said. “We had one person donate an entire bag of homemade gowns. Ever since we sent out the email, people started sewing gowns and masks like crazy.”

Rennie said monetary donations for Tuesday’s event at the school totaled $2,000. Donations of homemade masks, gowns and other supplies were enough to pack the school’s Ford Expedition SUV to the brim. The money will pay for more supplies, such as hand sanitizer made by local breweries.

The Navajo and Tribal Clinical Relief Support effort has raised more than $3,000.

The Navajo Nation has been hit hard by the coronavirus, with more than 830 COVID-19 cases and 33 deaths.

Data released Tuesday by the New Mexico Department of Health shows that Native Americans make up 36.7% of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

Rennie heard about the fundraising efforts through her husband, who works for the Center for Development and Disability at the University of New Mexico and is connected with the Navajo Nation through the Navajo Birth Cohort project. The Sandia Prep teacher said that in addition to the in-person donations, former students and teachers mailed money and supplies from out of state to help the cause.

“This social distancing process is lonely, but I was struck today by how rejuvenating it was to do a project like this,” Rennie said. “It was good to be a part of something bigger and get out of my worried head. I think that was true for everyone involved, even if they just quickly dropped off supplies.”

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