O’otham Veterans distribute boxes to vets during COVID-19 pandemic
Gila River Indian News
Veterans in the Gila River Indian Community are among the many groups assisting the public with much needed groceries, household items and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The O’otham Veterans Celebration (OVC) organization held a distribution of items for local veterans on Saturday, May 23. The veterans group hosted the distribution of household necessities and food items at the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley – Sacaton Branch.
“It was good to see everyone come out, to talk and laugh with the vets again,” said Douglas Juan, interim chairman of the OVC. Juan said that everyone was appreciative of the boxes and showed the veterans that they weren’t neglected during this time.
The organization has been providing small scale assistance during the outbreak but expanded their outreach to serve as many veterans as possible. Juan said that much of the success of the May 23 distribution was due to the hard work and coordination of Doreen Atkinson-Juan. She serves as the secretary for the OVC.
On the morning of the event, OVC distributed over 50 boxes to veterans from throughout the Community. Like many tribal programs, all events and activities have been canceled, including the annual celebration hosted by OVC. They typically host numerous events to assist Community veterans through a variety of outreach activities such as their “stand-downs,” where they provide services and items for veterans and a space for veterans to convene amongst one another.
In place of the stand down, the OVC provided Community veterans with assistance during the coronavirus pandemic by organizing with their partners and securing donations for the distribution, similar to the way they would for a stand down.
Some of the organizations that provided the items were Phoenix Veterans Affairs Office, Tucson Veterans Affairs Office, Eloy Veteran’s Center, Pinal County Veterans Center, VFA of Casa Grande among others.
OVC is still uncertain about their next big event like their canceled Memorial Day Powwow, but Juan hopes for the Community’s veterans to remain safe and healthy and ensures that “we’ll all see one another again on the other side of this pandemic.”