Clothing drive, donations help Navajo, Ute near Four Corners
More than 5,000 items of clothing were delivered to residents of the Navajo and Ute reservations near Four Corners last week, thanks to Ridgway Secondary School students and a new volunteer club at the school called PeaceJam.
Through a week-long clothing drive at the Ridgway Secondary School, as well as additional donations made by Second Chance, Telluride Storage, and individual community members, PeaceJam was able to collect 5,136 items of clothing.
PeaceJam is a global organization with chapters in high schools across the world. Led by Nobel Peace laureates, Peace-Jam creates opportunities for volunteer service for students.
The clothes donated to PeaceJam were handed off to social service centers to then be distributed around the reservations.
The morning of Oct. 16, PeaceJam volunteers helped set up a station in the parking lot of the social services center in Towaoc, with clothes piled high on top of tables and blankets. There, they met residents, helped them navigate the clothes piles, and loaded bags of clothes into their cars.
Ava Berwanger, a sophomore at RSS and an active PeaceJam member, said that even counting and folding clothes from the clothing drive makes a difference. “There are a lot of people in Ridgway who have a lot of extra clothes and there are some people who really need them, so it really helps everyone out,” she said.
“I think that (clothing drives) like this make a big impact,” said Sharon House, an adult outreach worker at the Ute Mountain Ute Social Services Center in Towaoc. “Some people can’t afford to go out and purchase things brand-new.”
House also stressed the importance of breaking down social barriers through food and clothing drives like the one hosted by PeaceJam. House has noticed that stigmatisms often develop between Native and non-Native people, but events like the clothing drive can help expose both sides to each other and “help the world be a peaceful place. Working together to accomplish something for good, that’s a good thing.”
After a few hours in Towaoc, the PeaceJam volunteers drove 30 minutes south to Shiprock, New Mexico, where they handed the remaining clothes off to the Navajo Nation Social Services center, where the clothes will be distributed to individual social service cases and nearby shelters.
Sunny Wick, a freshman at RSS and a member of PeaceJam who assisted with the clothing handoff , explained that part of the appeal of PeaceJam is the ease of joining. “I like doing good things for people,” Wick said, and went on to explain that PeaceJam is important because it provides access to opportunities for kids to serve their communities. “[Students] can help people without having to do a whole lot,” Wick said.
“They can just join Peace-Jam and do something good.”
The new PeaceJam chapter in Ouray County has overseen more than 20 projects since its inception in 2021, and is currently participating in the worldwide “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” program, raising money for education and vaccines for children in less-developed countries.
Editor’s note: Riley Burr is a Ridgway Secondary School student.