Gladeeh Begaye of Orem was the recipient of the 2016 Barbara Thompson Gift.
She is the mother of four daughters and 15 grandchildren plus numerous foster children and family members. She has worked for Alpine School District as a bus driver for handicapped children for 40 years, receiving Most Valuable Employee in 2014 out of 8,000 employees. At the same time, she has worked with TURN, a local non-profit serving the special needs of adults in group homes and been named their Employee Exemplar five years in a row. She has been honored by the Mayor of Orem for her work and by the President of the Navajo Nation for service to her people.
When Gladeeh was a young woman and went back to visit her family on the reservation, she began to recognize how difficult their living circumstances were. They had no electricity, little food, and no heat. She also realized that her nieces and nephews were not in school. When she asked them why, they told her that they had no shoes and couldn’t walk to the school bus over a mile away, then ride 2 hours to the closest school.
She knew she had to do something to help her family and her people. She created Reservations Bound and has worked with local Utah organizations for over 40 years to provide basic needs and hope to the people on the reservations. Several times each year Gladeeh organizes semi-truck loads of clothing, housewares, hygiene items, and back-to-school items. In early December she gathers coats, Christmas gifts, books, more shoes, and anything else she can to take to the people of all ages on the reservation.
Although she organizes the project and transportation herself, she has inspired hundreds of volunteers that gather, sort, clean, pack, and deliver these items. These groups include service organizations – both adult and youth, Scout organizations, schools, individuals, businesses, etc. Truckers provide their trucks and their driving expertise to deliver the items, but Gladeeh needs to pay for the gas for this transportation. There are usually three truckloads of items every time she takes a trip to the reservation. Volunteers also drive to the reservation to help deliver the items, but they pay their own costs.
We applaud Gladeeh for the service she has provided to fill the needs of the Navajo people. We also recognize the example she has been to those who know her. She has helped many catch the vision of giving and doing it with an open heart and hand.
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As a way of explanation: Hearts and Hands in Action is the licensed 501(c)(3) organization under which Reservations Bound functions. If Gladeeh is selected to receive this coveted recognition, any donations will need to be made through Hearts and Hands in Action.