Dec 232011

By Teri Walker–

For 17 years, Linda Russell has offered a safe haven for abused Native American children. She’s given them a home, helped them find their smiles again and, in some cases, even provided them with a new family.

What she hasn’t been able to provide all these years is clear, clean water. But that’s about to change.

“The toilets are always red. The sinks are red. The appliances would break,” said Russell, the founder and director of NAOMI House.

The NAOMI House, which is officially Native American Outreach Ministries Incorporated (NAOMI), was founded 17 years ago west of Joseph City, near Jackrabbit. It is home to 25 children and a residential staff, and is supported by volunteers from Holbrook and Winslow.

When Russell, a Kentucky native, brought her father to the property, she said he had tears in his eyes when he asked, “Why are you doing this here? There are no trees.”

Russell didn’t mind not having trees in this high desert setting that she loves; she didn’t know she wouldn’t have good water for the children she would harbor.

Russell said when she first founded NAOMI House, the organization purchased water from the property owners.

Eventually, the organization decided to dig its own well. Knowing of the brackish water in the area, a well driller told Russell he could sink a well deep enough to bypass the heavily mineralized water near the surface and tap into clean water further down. NAOMI House paid the drilling company about $18,000 for the endeavor, but clean water was never reached.

So began years of installing multiple filters and reverse osmosis systems on a relentless quest to provide pure water for the children and staff of NAOMI House.

Russell said even with a water purifying system installed in the well house, they still had to have a reverse osmosis system attached, which provided only two gallons at a time.

“But we’ve got 40 people here,” chuckles Russell. “That didn’t work out real well.”

Until recently, Russell resorted to purchasing drinking water from Safeway or Walmart, and living with replacing appliances rusted out by the well water.

“We’ve had to replace washing machines, water heaters, dishwashers, toilets, bath tubs and pipes,” said Russell. “Oh, and the swamp cooler–the swamp cooler pads actually crystallize.”

Over a year ago, a charitable organization from California, Wings of Faith Ministries Inc., learned of Russell’s water plight and determined it wanted to help.

Wings of Faith is a non-profit, evangelistic charity focused on “missionary aviation.” The organization includes pilots who use light aircraft to extend their ability to provide supplies and services to Native American populations across the western U.S., Mexico and Central America.

Wings of Faith has provided support to NAOMI House over the years, including food, toys at Christmas, and the basics like toilet paper and laundry soap.

To tackle the organization’s water problems, Wings of Faith flew a geologist out to the property to test the water, and then spent nearly a year researching water-purifying systems that wouldn’t corrode over time.

In the meantime, Wings of Faith personnel visiting the area became acquainted with area resident Dave Dixson, also a pilot, and engaged him in the project.

While Wings of Faith was researching a suitable solution, Dixson purchased a large water tank and began filling it at his home, then hauling it to NAOMI House so they would have an on-site source of clear water for the first time.

“He’s an incredible man,” said Russell of Dixson.

While the water tank has provided welcome relief, the new water system Wings of Faith has settled on for NAOMI House will provide a long-term solution.

In early January, Wings of Faith personnel will be onsite when the $18,000 water filtering system the organization is donating to NAOMI House is installed.

“It’s going to be so incredible. It will make all of our water drinkable. No more broken toilets, no more broken water heaters. No more rust,” said Russell.