Nonprofit expands reach to Nez Perce elders

Organization usually lobbies for environment protection but now donates hygiene supplies to those who need it

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COURTESY OF JULIAN MATTHEWS

The nonprofit organization, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, launched a public service announcement to encourage residents on the Palouse and Nez Perce county to wear a mask when leaving the house.

HANNAH FLORES, Evergreen reporter

Morgan Chaffee, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment board member, spends her time collecting and distributing essential supplies to the elderly communities who need it the most during COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues to roar on, board member Julian Matthews and Chaffee realized the elders of the Nez Perce Tribe could benefit from receiving donations of personal care items, such as deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste.

About 757 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Nez Perce county, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

“Many of the elders can’t go out shopping because they are at risk of being exposed to the virus, so we wanted to provide them with resources that they might need,” Matthews said.

Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment is a Pullman-based nonprofit organization comprised of members passionate about educating people on ways to protect the environment, as well as lobbying for better land preservation.

While the group focuses on caring for the natural environment, board leaders believe a key factor in preservation includes taking care of Nez Perce tribal community members, said Julian Matthews, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment board member and coordinator. 

Since the organization’s beginning, they have made it a priority to actively engage with the members of their community, he said. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the group spent time with elementary students in Lapwai, Idaho. They taught them about land preservation and hosted arts and crafts events. 

Because of COVID-19, the organization could not visit with children groups or conduct any lobbying. So the group decided to use its funding to help in other areas.

Many of the seniors personally know Matthews. Although the nonprofit is not affiliated with the tribal government, he is a Nez Perce tribal member. The elders often express their gratitude to him for the work the team is doing for the community, Matthews said.

“I really enjoy working with the elders because it shows them that we are still interested in our community, and we still value taking care of one another like we have always been taught in the past,” Matthews said. 

Although the nonprofit cannot hold in-person events like before, Chaffee said group members are doing their best to provide for their community being mindful of COVID-19 safety guidelines. 

The board members recently created a public service announcement about wearing masks in public to protect vulnerable groups. The video will be posted to social media accounts soon, Chaffee said.

Matthews said the organization is planning to host webinars and meetings via Zoom in the near future.

“This organization is incredibly inclusive and has a mission that isn’t just limited to social media,” Chaffee said. “This group of people is so passionate about making their community a better place together and taking care of their environment.”