‘It gets to my bones when it’s cold’

Paul Yellowhorse, 78, who lives nine miles north of Sanders, Ariz., speaks with Department of Family Services worker Juanita Billy Friday at his home. Billy brought Yellowhorse a jacket and some socks.

Paul Yellowhorse, 78, who lives nine miles north of Sanders, Ariz., speaks with Department of Family Services worker Juanita Billy Friday at his home. Billy brought Yellowhorse a jacket and some socks.

By Christopher S. Pineo and Donovan Quintero

Navajo Naiton Tribal Workers Sponsor Coat Drive to Keep Elders Warm This Winter

Published December 23, 2015

WINDOW ROCK — As winter sets in on Navajo, elders living in isolation feel the cold in their own particular way.

“The cold weather here, it bothers me,” said Daniel M. Watchman, 75, of Fort Defiance. “It really gets to my bones when it’s cold.”

To alleviate some of the cold, from Nov. 18 through Dec. 14 the Department of Family Services sponsored a coat drive they called, “Protecting Our Legacy With Warmth” by providing Watchman and elders like him with warm clothes for the winter, especially jackets which can be a big expense when living on a fixed income.

Watchman said the cold weather and the bad weather make it harder to function day-to-day, especially when roads become impassable.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero Department of Family Services worker Juanita Billy arrives at the home of Paul Yellowhorse, 78, who lives 9 miles north of Sanders, Ariz., as he warms himself in the sun on Friday. Billy brought Yellowhorse a jacket and some socks.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Department of Family Services worker Juanita Billy arrives at the home of Paul Yellowhorse, 78, who lives 9 miles north of Sanders, Ariz., as he warms himself in the sun on Friday. Billy brought Yellowhorse a jacket and some socks.

“We don’t have any transportation,” Watchman said. “We can’t even get into the hospital sometimes, when the roads are bad.”

Watchman received a coat and a care package brought by the in-home care worker who visits him from DFS every week. The package included toiletries, a tote bag, and some small holiday gifts such as candy.

“I think the most useful thing will probably be the jacket because of the cold weather,” Watchman said.

Watchman has six children and five grandchildren. His mother lives nearby and will turn 101 on Dec. 29. Having family nearby makes him one of the lucky ones.

For some of the unfortunate elders – like Paul Yellowhorse – the workers who visit them from DFS are the only person they see each week.

Yellowhorse, 78, lives 9 miles north of Sanders, Ariz. off Interstate 40 along a desolate road called “Burnt Water Road.”

Editor’s Note: This article first was published in the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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