When the January ice storm hit, Chelsy Navarro did what she does best – she cooked.
Despite being without power at her own home, Chelsy knew there was something she could do to help her community. As owner and operator of Chacha’s Hawaiian Grill on Coburg Road in Eugene, Chelsy wanted to help the helpers who were out in the elements providing essential services, ensuring that our community could get back on its feet.
“I was thinking of all the people who had to be out in this – first responders, doctors, people who have to commute to work,” Chelsy says. “I just made a decision that I was gonna find a way to get in here and be open to anybody who needed a hot meal. There were so many people displaced, and I think the last thing people should worry about in times of crisis is eating.”
Chelsy even took her food truck to feed people in Cottage Grove, which was one of the places hardest hit by the storm. And this isn’t the first time she has stepped up to help others. After the Holiday Farm Fire that devastated the McKenzie River area, she fed people then, too. And when devastation struck her native home of Hawaii, she dove headfirst into fundraising efforts to support people affected by the Lahaina blaze in Maui.
Inspired by her generosity, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw reached out to make a donation to support Chelsy’s efforts during the ice storm. Upon meeting, the two made an instant connection.
Chelsy shared with Dr. Bradshaw that she’d recently had a life-saving surgery to treat a rare medical condition that resulted in thousands of dollars in medical bills. Regardless, Chelsy felt called to help others in this time of crisis.
Chelsy has a medical condition called achalasia, a rare swallowing disorder that affects the esophagus. After suffering from the condition for six years, it had become extremely difficult for her body to get food and fluids to her stomach.
She reached a point of severe malnutrition last summer where she was presented with three options, the most viable being an expensive surgery. Just before her procedure, she learned that her insurance had denied the procedure because the place she was to have the operation was considered out of network.
Faced with a life or death situation, she went forward with the procedure with the help of a friend who was able to make the initial payment so she could have the surgery. The operation was successful, but the medical bills have been insurmountable.
“The bills have been coming in and piling on and they’re very intimidating. And, of course, I’m trying to run a business and provide for my family, so it’s been very, very stressful.”
As a business owner and mom of two with another child on the way, Chelsy has done what she’s always done — carry on and help others.
“You know, even when times are tough financially, it’s just what I have to do,” she says.
Touched by Chelsy’s story, Dr. Bradshaw launched a GoFundMe page to raise money to help offset the medical bills that have been piling up.
“Chelsy didn’t share her story with me because she was looking for sympathy. She shared it because I’m a physician and she knew I would understand,” Dr. Bradshaw says.
Chelsy is both grateful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support since the GoFundMe page launched, admitting that she’s more used to giving than receiving.
“I work really hard to make sure my family is OK and the people around me are OK. It’s different to feel like that weight’s been taken off me a little bit.” Chelsy says.
Dr. Bradshaw hopes that others will be inspired to help Chelsy, too.
“Everybody in this community has been touched by this ice storm,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “And yet, out of literal darkness, there have been these little beacons of light. Those people who are helping each other is what defines community.”