by Alana Minkler, Arizona Republic Published 6:27 p.m. MT May 27, 2020
In three weeks, a friend group of teenagers in Phoenix raised over $11,000 for supplies to donate to the Navajo Nation.
17-year-olds Ben Richardson and Max Goldstein, 16-year-olds Caroline Purtill and Alex Goldstein and 13-year-old Sierra Goldstein all spent a couple of full days at stores, loading up six or seven cars with supplies.
“We were in quarantine and we didn’t have a lot to do,” Max Goldstein said. “We wanted to help out our community in Arizona.”
After hearing about the Navajo Nation’s high rate of COVID-19 infection, they felt concerned and inspired to help in whatever way they could.
They started the fundraiser by writing a letter and emailing it to friends and family, addressing the issue and asking for donations. They also contacted the Navajo Nation to find out what supplies are needed and how they can be distributed.
“Right when we sent out the letter, I was really surprised because a lot of people started emailing us, dropping off checks and donations” Alex Goldstein said.
They received donations from $5 to $1,000 and suddenly the amount they received “became almost overwhelming,” said Susan Purtill, Caroline Purtill’s mother.
“I’m just really proud of them,” Susan Purtill said. “For kids being at home this has been — I don’t want to be overly dramatic — but it’s been tough.”
Supplies from non-perishable food items to bottles of shampoo and conditioner that the friend group has collected to donate. (Photo: Max Goldstein)
1,000 masks, 8 hours on a Costco run
Sierra Goldstein said when they first started going to Costco and Walmart to buy the supplies, they got “some dirty looks” because people assumed they were hoarding shopping carts full food and cleaning supplies.
The friend group said they had to get a letter from the Navajo Nation attorney general to let the stores know that they were donating the items in order to buy some materials in bulk like hand sanitizer and bleach.
“It’s definitely been a lot of work, Caroline Purtill said. “We spent over eight hours at Costco just getting stuff and bringing it to the house in just one day”
Alex Goldstein added that they enjoyed throwing in some fun items that they thought might brighten up someone’s day like chips or fruit snacks.
In addition to cleaning supplies, diapers, baby formula, dog food, and nonperishable food, they were able to compile about 1,000 masks. Over 550 medical-grade masks were donated by churches and some hand-made masks were sewn by a friend.
Plans to drive U-Haul of supplies to Window Rock
On Thursday they will be loading an entire U-Haul with the supplies they bought and on Friday they will drive to Window Rock to drop off the supplies at a food distribution center.
They said if they have enough leftover money, they hope to fund an entire tanker truck full of water to send to the Navajo Nation, instead of buying more plastic water bottles.
They said their social media helped boost their project to the next level. They created a Twitter, which is @FundNavajo, that spreads awareness about their GoFundMe, named Navajo Supply Project. They also opened up a new bank account just for the Venmo, Navajo Nation Supply Project.
Sierra Goldstein said her favorite part of the experience was when one of the parents’ moms sewed 100 masks for them to donate.
“It felt so great to see someone who cares just as much as us about this,” Sierra Goldstein said.
Alex Goldstein said she thinks her favorite part will be dropping off the supplies and “seeing everyone’s faces and showing them that we really care.”
“I think that when you hear these big numbers you don’t really imagine individual persons, but I think it’s important for people to remember that it’s not just a statistic and that these are actually individual lives,” Sierra Goldstein said.
Reach the reporter at Alana.Minkler@gannett.com or on Twitter at @alana_minkler.