Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sun, Nov. 28

Hopi Relief going strong with non-profit status and dreams

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — With official non-profit status, Hopi Relief is pushing forward into the changing season, with immediate COVID-19 needs in mind, but also looking for how to help in the future.

Hopi Relief, which includes siblings Thomas Kaye and his sister Kiona Arellanes and other members of their family, said with its 501(c)(3) non-profit status any donations to the fund are fully tax-deductible retroactive to June 29. They recently hired an executive director, Wendi Lewis, who will start in November.

“Since day one, we have been amazed by the generosity and giving spirit of so many individuals and organizations who simply wanted to help. Receiving our 501(c)(3) status will open many more doors for fundraising which will in-turn benefit our Hopi people. This brings us one step closer to our long-term goal of assisting Hopi tribal members by providing relief, in the broadest sense of the word,” said Arellanes, co-founder of Hopi Relief.

The Hopi-led organization remains focused on the immediate needs of battling COVID-19, while also looking to a future beyond the pandemic.

“We’ve been going (to Hopi), pretty consistent, every two weeks,” Kaye said. “We’ve been moving along pretty good.”

With an ultimate goal of getting a food pantry on Hopi, Kaye said the journey feels like it has moved at lightning speed.

In collaboration with the Hopi Foundation and the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief, they brought a semi-trailer to Hopi Oct. 9.

“The partnerships are starting to come together,” Kaye said. “We had a goal in the beginning to work with the Navajo and Hopi Families Relief, or at least be on a par with them, and this last week, they purchased items for us to box up and take up there. They have the means to purchase the food and we have the means to take it up there.”

They also have worked with Midwest Food Bank.

Another important partner has been the Means Database, which was co-founded by Maria Rose Belding, and was started with the belief that it should be easy for those with excess food to share it with those in need.

“Just being able to bounce stuff off of [Belding], reach out and ask what works and what doesn’t, has really expedited some of the learning,” Kaye said. “It’s amazing all the organizations that are coming out, trying to help.”

The process of starting the non-profit hasn’t always been easy. Kaye said it is a huge undertaking, which involves questions of what to take and what not to take, when to hire and when not to hire.

“And how to raise funds,” Kaye said. “In the beginning, it was real simple, it was t-shirts. Now, we have to go after grants. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff that we’re working on for fundraising.”

Again, Kaye emphasized that the goal for Hopi Relief is long-term.

“To be there beyond COVID,” he said. “To help, because the need is so great.”

Now, the non-profit has a team, with a board of directors and a group of volunteers.

The future does bring challenges with the seasons changing. Kaye and the group are already thinking about how to navigate what the changing weather will mean for taking goods to Hopi from Phoenix during winter months.

They are working on where they could store supplies, so they are always there to be accessed. Kaye said the Hopi Foundation and the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief are continuing their efforts to make sure there are supplies on Hopi.

“Cassandra, Ethel and Mary Francis have been amazing these past few weeks in just working together with all of us, so that we can get Hopi more food, more non-perishables,” Kaye said. “We definitely want to be that link between that fund and Hopi. Because we have the capability down here in the Valley.”

What Kaye means is that because Hopi Relief is based in Phoenix, they have access to manpower, space, volunteers, relationships and flexibility.

“The nearest store is on the corner or the big box store is down the road, it’s not 60 miles away,” Kaye said. “If we forget to get some glue, or some gloves, it’s just down the road.”

Kaye said while the effort has moved fast, even with the hard work, it’s been fun.

“The need is still there,” Kaye said. “Cases are still rising. We still want to do what we can to keep people home, to keep them from moving around. Just be safe, especially with flu season coming.”

Hopi Relief can be found at or and at @HopiRelief on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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