Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal member Emily Rosewitz wanted to find a way to help others during the pandemic. While reading news about the spread of the coronavirus, she became inspired to recruit her family to put together donation boxes of cleaning supplies. The Toupin family descendants started by purchasing hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, laundry sanitizer, aerosol disinfectant and more.
Rosewitz works in the shipping and receiving department at her local Target. She kept an eye on merchandise as the staff processed it and took advantage of opportunities to purchase things at work while adhering to rationing. Her mother, Nancy; father, Paul; and two younger sisters, Liz and Kat, also picked up goods. Before they knew it, they had shipped more than 10 full boxes to CPN and the Navajo Nation from their homes in the greater St. Louis, Missouri, area in just two months.
“Once it gets there, our hope is that it’s getting to people who need it and it’s being used by our friends and our family and our Tribe to sort of help beat this thing,” Rosewitz said. “If it’s one less thing that somebody needs to worry about, where they can put their efforts to something else, whether it be taking care of their kids or they’re just doing their everyday jobs.”
CPN Director of Purchasing Stacey Bennett served as Rosewitz’s contact with the Tribe through the process. Bennett said right now, anything helps.
“It’s just great to be able to utilize those items, and I think, it’s awesome that she thought of the Nation in this time of need, just with the way our world is, that someone was thinking of others instead of just their direct needs,” she said.
The CPN Child Development Center washes its bedding with the laundry sanitizer every day in order to adhere to heightened protocols. CPN’s clinics and other frontline workers clean their hands and surfaces with the hand sanitizer and wipes. Rosewitz’s dad also donated 600 recently expired N-95 masks for health care workers.
“I greatly appreciate the Rosewitzs for donating items to help enable our Tribal workforce to combat COVID-19,” said CPN Vice-Chairman Linda Capps. “The donations expanded our ability to keep our work stations safe.”
In April, Rosewitz read an NBC News article that outlined the hardships for the Navajo Nation faced trying trying to contain the virus and care for its people with COVID-19. It featured family practitioner Dr. Michelle Tom from Arizona. She lives on the reservation without running water at home, caring for patients who also make weekly trips to fill their water tanks.
“She was talking about how … it’s so hard to just say, ‘Wash your hands frequently,’” Rosewitz said. “It’s hard to do that when you don’t actually have access to that water. So that was kind of when we started thinking. It was like, we do have access to these cleaning products and this hand sanitizer where you don’t need the water. Can we use our ability to get product in a way that’s going to be helping other people?”
The Rosewitzs chose to donate items rather than money because it seemed more logical to distribute the product itself to places in need, especially the Navajo Nation.
“In many ways, we knew that it doesn’t matter to have the money there, necessarily, if you don’t have access to products to spend it on. So, we kind of decided that was something that we would like to be able to continue doing,” Rosewitz said.
“We may be different tribes, we may be living in different states, but we are all in this together. And we do need to help each other out.”
The project also allowed the Rosewitzs to feel a closeness amongst themselves, despite quarantining. They usually volunteer together, using their skills at animal rescues, fundraising for diabetes research, schools and more. The coronavirus dampened their efforts initially, but Rosewitz found a creative way to expend her family’s philanthropic energy through collecting and donating goods.
“There’s really not been any kind of visiting or really getting together, outside of just standing on opposite sides of the door,” Rosewitz said, since she lives with her grandparents, who are both immunocompromised. “But (collecting donations) is kind of a way for us to be able to do something together without actually getting together.”
As a frontline worker at a grocery and retail store, she took no time off through the peak of the virus and could not work from home. Rosewitz finds ways to warm her heart and hold her positivity while missing her family. She encounters stressed and frustrated people every day while trying to function and maintain her duties, and she encourages others to practice empathy.
“Keep in mind that everybody sort of has had a different experience with quarantine and with everything that’s going on, and just keep an open mind and be as patient with everyone as possible,” Rosewitz said. “I’ve taken to watching feel-good movies in the evenings, and I’ve watched the most recent live-action Cinderella repeatedly. I try to keep that quote from her, ‘Have courage and be kind,’ just in my head all of the time.”
For more information on CPN’s response to the coronavirus, visit cpn.news/COVID19.