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SAN JUAN COUNTY — A small Navajo community in San Juan County celebrated a major milestone Friday, bringing electricity to dozens of people who for decades have struggled for access to basic necessities like power and water.
“We like it. We can see what we’re doing,” Bessie Begay said.
Like many in Westwater, she was born in the small community, left and then returned home. She knows how long it’s taken to get to this moment when she can finally turn the lights on.
“Oh, it was wonderful. It was really wonderful,” she said.
Thomas Chee is the president of the Westwater, which sits just west of the small town of Blanding.
“When I came back to my community, I noticed there was a need and I had to act,” he said. “I’m excited for all my community to just flip on a switch.”
Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson heard from community members about the struggle for power. She said politicians in the past had made promises but never followed through. She described the effort to send electricity to the neighborhood as complicated.
The state of Utah ultimately donated $500,000 to the cause.
Henderson said she happened to be near Blanding earlier this month when she saw the power lines installed.
“They brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “Simply by chance, I was here the day the community was electrified.”
— Matt Rascon (@MattRasconNews) September 17, 2022
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also donated half a million dollars to make it happen.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles attended an event Friday to mark the occasion, along with state, local and community leaders and residents.
“Like the Good Samaritan went out and went for the one, here’s an opportunity to do something without great fanfare,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
He compared the light now used in homes to the light of Jesus Christ.
Begay also attended the event, full of gratitude for the individuals and organizations who helped make it happen.
“Oh, I love them. I love them. I appreciate all their help,” she said.
It’s the sort of help that’s here to stay, as the work continues to bring running water to each of the 29 homes in the community.
The Navajo Nation also helped fund the project, bringing the total donations to more than $1.2 million. That leaves about a half million dollars left over that leaders will use toward the water project.
Right now, residents have to haul water to fill up water storage tanks installed on the property that can then pump water to the home.