Every once in a while, maybe once in a lifetime, you have an experience that changes your life. The Halchita Community Center Project could be one of those. We had a crew of about 75 people from about every walk of life converge on this little, somewhat Isolated community in the far Southern part of Utah to provide what could ultimately be a major improvement to the lives of the Halchita residents. The RI motto in 2013-14, the year I was President of the Bountiful Club was “Engage Rotary, Change Lives”. I believe everyone who was involved in this project experienced the meaning of that motto. The crew included Rotarians and friends and family of Rotarians.
When it comes to thanking all of you involved, I worry that I can’t personally say thank you to each and every one of you who worked on the project. Yes, there were some who contributed but couldn’t attend for health or other legitimate reasons; I thank those wonderful people as well. I feel I need to thank the team leaders who met each week on ZOOM for the last month and many times before to organize and make sure we were ready. Up front, I want to thank Devin Thorpe, who was insistent that we organize properly and make sure all who wanted to attend know what we wanted them to do. Thanks so much Devin for your help along the way and for documenting all that went on at the project.
I need to start with our former District Governor Linda Sappington. Linda has been a wonderful leader to work for and admire. She has been supportive and encouraging all along the way. She had a most difficult challenge being the District Governor during COVID and she performed magnificently. Because of COVID, her District Conference was on Zoom and turned out great, but her dream was to have a BIGGER, BETTER, BOLDER PROJECT during her year didn’t materialize. We couldn’t make it happen in her year, but I believe she was very happy about the Halchita Project, and it fit her criteria of BBB. Thank you, Linda for your great leadership and support.
Next, I want to thank Lisa and Ivan Carr. This project fulfills Lisa’s dream of putting an abandoned building to use for the good of the Navajo people of Halchita. Lisa is the Executive Director for the San Juan Foundation, the entity who owns the building. Fortunately for her and all of us, her husband Ivan is a talented mechanic and all around fixit-man and dedicated to helping his wife. I am so very grateful for these great friends for their dedicated time and resources in making this project successful. Their resources were extensive ranging from canopies for the food area to 4-wheeler, front-end loader, a large 5th wheel trailer for the food court and about every tool known to man. (I probably left something out) Thank you, Lisa, and Ivan!
Next, I want to thank Stuart Richardson who has been my go-to-guy since the Native American Initiative (NAI) began back in early 2020. Stuart and I have made many trips together hauling cleaning supplies and food to the various villages on the Navajo and Goshute Reservations. When we began to focus on this project, Stuart went with me on several occasions to check out the building. During the planning he was a valued advisor and friend. During the last weekend, he was about everyone’s go-to-guy for everything from ceiling tile to plumbing to ordering additional parts that we had overlooked. Thank you, Stuart, for your excellent leadership, assistance, and friendship.
Debby Lauret and Charisse Armstrong were the painting and flooring leaders. I lump them in one paragraph because they were a closely organized team, and it was hard to tell where the dividing line was. These ladies spent a ton of time searching for the best buys on paint and flooring. I am sure they saved us a lot of money with their dedication to getting the best buy and product for the project. Once on the project, they oversaw all the painting, the flooring in the restrooms, hallway and assembly room and organizing and placing books in the library. A major help to the painting crew was our professional painter Reg McDaniel. Reg, with the help of Jim Lauret, spray painted two coats on the outside of the building. He painted the ball field dugout and was a big help in making sure the inside painting was done properly. A very big thank you to Reg and you two great women and friends, Debby, and Charisse.
You can’t have a project like this without a lot of food. We had a Food Committee that was outstanding. I first appointed Maury Bergman as chair of the food committee. Unfortunately, Maury encountered a detached retina in one of his eyes and had to turn it over to someone else. Lisa Carr accepted the role and worked with several on the food committee to feed us all great food. I would like to list all their names, but I would probably miss someone. So please, all of you who worked hard to prepare and serve the food, accept the thanks of all of us.
The baseball field was a fun add on to the project. The field had once been a place where competitive games were played. However, it has not been used for a few years for reasons that are unclear. After talking to several of the local residents, we found there was still an interest in playing ball, but the field was uncared for, and they couldn’t afford the equipment for the kids to use. We decide to upgrade the field and make it playable for the kids. The field needed to be leveled and make playable. Dennis Hullinger brought with him an apparatus to pull behind a four-wheeler to level the field. Once this was done, we installed the bases and pitchers’ mound, and the field was ready. However, the dugout was in shambles and needed help. Dave Pilkington, Jerry Summerhays, Larry Hogge procured the lumber needed to make the dugout useable again. Then our painter painted it a nice light blue color making it attractive again. Ronnie Benally, the community leader, arranged for getting a small bleacher moved to the viewing area for spectators to watch the games. Thanks to all who worked on this part of the project. Charisse Armstrong and Blaine Rawson from Centerville club rounded up a massive amount of baseball and softball equipment for the residents to use. Some new and some slightly used. The local folks were really excited about this donation. Thanks to Charisse and Blaine.
Another amazing miracle, among many amazing miracles that happened on this project was the replacing of the kitchen cabinets and bookshelves for the library. Paul Cozzens from the Cedar City Club was the person who made it all happen for this part of the project. While my wife and I were having dinner with Miriam and Dick Keener at a restaurant in Cedar City, Paul Cozzens, his wife and daughter sat at a table directly across from us. Miriam, the president of the Cedar City Club went over and visited with them. When she came back to our table, she told me who Paul was and introduced us. Paul then indicated he was a cabinet maker and invited us to see his shop the next morning. We visited his shop and were very impressed with the facility. Paul indicated he could build us new cabinets for the project if we desired. I was concerned about what the cost would be. Paul said he would talk to the suppliers and see if he could get some of the material donated. The next thing I heard was Paul said the suppliers had agreed to donate all the material and Paul would bring it all over and install it for us. I then asked if he could do some bookcases for us, and he agreed. He got this material donated as well. He had several of the Club members help to assemble and load the pieces for transport to the project. Dick Keener and others from the Cedar Club were on site to help assemble the cabinets and bookshelves. The estimate for preparing the cabinet and bookshelf material, delivering them to the site and installation was $17,000. We paid about $1,200 for the entire installation. If we had not been at the restaurant or had sat somewhere else and not met Paul, none of this would have happened. That is what I call a miracle.
The concluding highlight of the project was the Trunk or Treat event. This was held on Saturday afternoon and evening, a day ahead of Halloween. Linda Sappington was in charge of this event. Many of the crew decorated their trunks for the party. We were not sure how many kids would be participating, but we had about 40 kids with parents or grandparents with the kids dressed in costumes. We had plenty of candy donated along with little pumpkins that the kids could paint. The kids were so cute and lovable. Many of the families were from Halchita although we had some families from Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley. Apparently, the word spreads very well among the Navajo families. Many thanks to Linda and the several people who helped and decorated their trunks.
And Finally, A GIAGANIC THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED MAKE THIS AN OVERWHELMING SUCCESS.
The Rotary clubs represented at the project were: