Thousands of pounds of food have been distributed to Native American reservations and colonies this spring in a Nevada Gold Mines effort to help those communities during the coronavirus pandemic, with volunteers and the Nevada National Guard lending a hand.
“I am so blessed to be a part of this,” said Joe Mike, head of Native American affairs for Nevada Gold Mines. Mike took on the challenge of rounding up food for the program as supermarkets were emptying of meat, canned foods, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.
The biggest distribution event of four involved more than 50,000 pounds distributed by truckloads starting May 10. Three earlier food distribution events provided roughly 18,000 to 19,000 pounds each, and one included meat, Mike said.
He estimated more than 100,000 pounds of food was delivered in the four distributions. NGM purchased the food as part of the $275,000 the joint venture designated for communities. Mike said CVS Pharmacy also donated money, diapers, baby formula and other baby supplies that went in the last load.
The deliveries also involved many miles of travel – about 880 miles a week—and consultants helping with the effort put in another 1,600 miles of driving. The final and largest delivery took two refrigerated trucks, Mike said.
“This was a huge undertaking,” he said in a phone interview.
For the last one, the workers, volunteers and National Guard converged at a Bonanza Produce warehouse to load the trucks.
Trips started with deliveries to the Elko and South Fork bands of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone, then went north to Owyhee to the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, then over to Fort McDermitt, south and east again to the Battle Mountain and Wells bands of Te-Moak, and on to the Goshute, Ely and Duckwater reservations. The last stop was the Yomba Tribe at Austin.
At each site, there were volunteers standing by ready to help unload, prepare food baskets and get the contributions out to those in need. Mike said NGM’s food program focused on the tribal elders and those at high risk.
For the first distribution round, NGM arranged for 12 cattle from its ranches to be taken to a slaughterhouse, and the meat was then packaged. The second and third rounds of distribution featured cold staples and the final round included produce from Bonanza.
In the first rounds, NGM used the Elko County Emergency Operations Center for help readying food for distribution.
Mike said when NGM first started the food program and they went out looking for food to buy at supermarkets, the stores were sold out of some foods or didn’t have the quantities to sell to NGM. That problem was solved when Stacey Montooth, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission, and John Oceguera, executive vice president of Strategies 360, put the team in touch with suppliers.
The NGM team had a shopping list to fill in large quantities, and “the first to come to the table was Raley’s,” Mike said. Then, the team was able to order in bulk from Costco out of Reno, with orders also coming from the Salt Lake City distribution center.
The contracted truck driver, James Hunt, “with his willingness and attitude became a part of this,” Mike said.
Mike said the four deliveries were all that was planned, but his team has maintained all the contact information in case there is a need in the future.
Native Americans receiving the food deliveries are those who were in a relationship with Barrick Gold Corp. before the NGM joint venture was formed last July between Barrick and Newmont Corp. The relationships carried over into the joint venture that Barrick operates.
Natacia Eldridge, communications specialist with NGM, said the partners receiving the food include the Confederate Tribes of the Goshute Indians, Ely Shoshone Tribe, Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, Yomba Shoshone Tribe, the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone tribes, the Shoshone and Paiute tribes of Duck Valley and the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone bands in Elko, Wells, Battle Mountain and South Fork.
Along with the $275,000 for food and supplies to Nevada communities, NGM’s COVID-19 support included $1.5 million to the Governor’s COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force; $100,000 for a food bank in southern Nevada, and $150 Chamber Checks for all 7,068 NGM employees. The checks, issued by the Elko, Winnemucca or Battle Mountain Chambers of Commerce, are redeemable at local member businesses.
NGM also is establishing the I-80 Fund to help small businesses along the Interstate 80 corridor. Greg Walker, executive managing director of NGM, said the fund should be set up in June to provide loans.
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