PPE for Navajo First Responders Enters Third Month, Encourages More Support

Posted By on July 10, 2020

PPE for Navajo First Responders, a group based in Phoenix, is entering its third month of operating its PPE Pantry in Tuba City where it distributes Personal Protective Equipment directly to first responders on the Navajo Nation.

The group established the PPE Pantry in early May as its base of operations for regular shipments of crucial PPE and sanitization suppliesto help fight COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation. The group sends 2-4 shipments per week and over time has sent 5,500 KN95 masks, 1,800 gallons of bleach, 909 gallons of sanitizer and 122,000 gloves.

Three additional volunteers, who are residents of towns on the Navajo reservation distribute the supplies directly to EMTs, police, fire, clinics, hospitals, corrections, food delivery volunteers, senior centers, and other essential workers who are on the front lines.

The effort began in March 2020 with Ginger Sykes Torres and her mother, Sherry Denipah Sykes and sister Deborah Sector — members of the Navajo tribe living in Phoenix — started sewing and donating over 700 handmade face masks to medical clinics and frontline workers in the Tuba City and Kayenta areas.

Ginger soon discovered that masks weren’t the only things in short supply — first responders didn’t even have basic supplies to protect themselves while working in the community and EMTs didn’t even have bleach to disinfect their units between shifts.

The team has raised more than $50,000 through GoFundMe donations (most of which has already been spent on supplies), and has received substantial in-kind contributions from around the country that are added to distributions.

Brophy College Prep has been donating their school buses and volunteers to deliver shipments. The Arizona Cardinals helicopter helped deliver masks and other supplies to eastern Arizona. SASS sewing group in New Jersey has made and sent over 3,400 masks, and a sewing group in Minnesota found the group on Twitter, and did their own fundraiser to send one hundred fabric gowns.

“The outpouring of support locally and nationally has been amazing,” Ginger said. “I see it as a testament to the fact that working collectively we can make a huge difference and it gives me hope for the future at a time when there is so much that can bring us down.”

Russ Dickey, a co-founder of the group, said “People have asked us our ‘goal’ with this effort. We have said all along that our goal is to put ourselves out of a job. We hope to no longer be needed when frontline warriors on the Navajo Nation have adequate protection to battle this virus head on.”


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