Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program earns high honor | ParkRecord.com

Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program earns high honor

Mae Shae demonstrates weaving during the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Programs annual rug show last year. The program was recently given a four-star rating by the charity watchdog group Charity Navigator. C.J. Robb, Adopt-A-Native-Elders assistant director, says the ranking is a validation of the way were running the program.

When you donate the last $100 of your paycheck to the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program, or spend your Saturday loading food into boxes at its warehouse, you can rest easy with the knowledge your money or hard work will actually benefit the Native Americans the program aims to serve.

So says one of the largest charity watchdog organizations in the country.

Charity Navigator, a non-profit that evaluates charities, recently gave the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program four stars, the highest designation it awards, after a review of the organization. The program, founded by Parkite Linda Myers more than 30 years ago, earned an overall score of 95.09 out of 100, with a mark of 100 for accountability and transparency.

C.J. Robb, the program's assistant director, said the ranking is a "big deal." It proves that the group is meeting its goals and doing things the right way.

"It's just kind of a validation of the way we're running the program, which is really nice," he said. "And it's huge for us when it comes to grant writing and recruiting new volunteers and people — it's a resource for them to look to when they're trying to figure out where they want to donate to."

He added that it's becoming increasingly important for charities to prove trustworthiness to volunteers and donors in an age where some non-profits have become the center of controversies for not fulfilling the promises they've made.

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"To be able to have somebody like Charity Navigator, somebody who is accountable and a non-profit themselves, go out there and evaluate and take control and tell people that 'These are places you can trust,' is huge," he said.

The Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program is hoping its Charity Navigator rating helps get more volunteers and donors involved. Right now, the group delivers food to more than 500 Native American elders living on reservations in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona twice a year. But the hope, Robb said, is that the program can expand its services to providing vouchers for items like food and firewood several times throughout the year.

To do that, though, the group needs a lot of help.

"That comes through donations," he said. "It doesn't do a lot of good if we have the money to send an extra food certificate this year, and then we don't have it next year. It has to be continuous."

The Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program also has sights on expanding to serve more elders, but it can only do that once it ensures its current elders are completely taken care of. The thought is tantalizing to Robb, who has seen firsthand the impact of the program.

"It's not only that they count on the support, but it's made a difference in healing a cultural divide, too, between our culture and theirs — not the Navajo people or Native Americans as a whole, but the people that we serve and their families," he said. "When they see the same volunteers coming back every year, giving to them selflessly, it makes a big difference. They see our people differently."

For more information, visit anelder.org. The program is also set to host its annual Park City rug show in November.