The holidays are a great time to remember those less fortunate—but it seems like everyone chooses the holidays as the time to remember and, the rest of the year, they forget. Many nonprofits are joyfully overloaded with volunteers during November and December, but those numbers often peter off after New Year's.
Resolve to make 2011 a year of continuing volunteerism. SFR has gathered a few ideas for nonprofits that need help this winter—but keep in mind that, all year round, dogs need to be walked, people need to eat, trash needs to be picked up, kids need to read and, in general, everyone always needs to help everyone else out.
Depending on where your loyalties lie, we have some recommendations for organizations to which you may want to donate some hours. You can also visit the Santa Fe Community Foundation (santafecf.org) for more
If you like animals...
The Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society (100 Caja del Rio Road, 983-4309, sfhumanesociety.org) has several big projects getting off the ground, and it needs manpower to make it all work! Executive Director Mary Martin tells SFR a laundry list of needs.
Those who don't mind the cold are urged to volunteer as wintertime dog-walkers; the pups need their exercise, and many fair-weather walkers chicken out when the air turns icy. If you'd rather not hang out in the cold, there are plenty of indoor opportunities such as cuddling the adoptable cats (plus, the shelter has a desperate need for foster homes for cats and kittens not well-suited to shelter life).
For people interested in learning more about animal medicine, the shelter's satellite clinic (2570-B Camino Entrada, 474-6422) now not only offers spay-neuter services, but also provides non-critical vet care for low or no cost to the public, and it needs volunteers to help out. The shelter's retail store, Look What the Cat Dragged In (2570-A Camino Entrada, 474-6300), is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, so help the shelter make extra dough by selling secondhand treasures. If none of that appeals to you (maybe you're allergic to animals or have limited mobility), the shelter also needs clerical help in its offices, so there is something for everyone.
If you like food...
Pickings have been slim at The Food Depot (1222 Siler Road, 471-1633, thefooddepot.org) this year, but the community food bank has remained dedicated to providing provisions to more than 125 local charities. What makes TFD unique is that it solves the donor’s problem of choosing where to send that can of green beans. Bring all your food to TFD’s Siler Road location, where it organizes distribution to northern New Mexico food banks near and far.
Executive Director Sherry Hooper admits that TFD and many other organizations are actually overwhelmed by volunteers at holiday times and, instead, urges the public to donate early and often. The biggest need TFD has, Hooper says, is frozen turkeys: "Every year it seems like we fall short," she says. It's also important to donate turkeys at least a week before Thanksgiving so TFD has plenty of time to get the birds to needy families.
Next on the list are non-perishable proteins such as canned meats and peanut butter, as well as canned fruits. Canned veggies, dried beans, pastas and perishable foods are always welcome (be sure to bring perishable foods right to the warehouse so they stay fresh).
If you like the environment...
Did you know that a block of riverfront property in downtown Santa Fe is only $1,000? Well, sort of. If you sponsor a section of the Santa Fe River through the Santa Fe Watershed Association (820-1696, santafewatershed.org), a block or so of the river will bear your or your business’ name for a year. While that sponsorship would make a pretty awesome Christmas present, not all of us have $1,000 to spare.
The rest of us, Program Director Pamela Dupzyk says, can volunteer to help clean up the river. Every weekend, groups organize at various sections of the river to pick up trash—and it could be argued that the job is actually more pleasant in winter, without the hot desert sun beating down on you. Call the SFWA to find the location of any given weekend’s cleanup. Volunteers can also help with plantings along the banks in fall and spring, as well as teach kids about the river, in classrooms and on field trips year-round.
If you like kids...
It takes a village to teach a child, and United Way of Santa Fe County (216-2975, uwsfc.org) is working to unite that village, one volunteer at a time. UWSFC runs programs both during and after school at the Aspen Community Magnet School (450 La Madera St.), according to Community Schools Manager Susan Duncan.
During the day, volunteers are needed for early literacy lessons for six pre-K classes; teachers' aides are also needed for all age levels for snack time, recess, academics and enrichment classes (dance, art, stuff like that). After school, the older kids (K-6) get attention from tutors who assist one or two students apiece in homework and literacy work.
The concept of a community school, which is picking up speed in Santa Fe, caters not only to the children's needs, but also concentrates on the entire family as a community unit. Accordingly, UWSFC has plans for adult-education classes in the works; volunteers interested in teaching adult classes in computers, English, Spanish, fitness and (this is a big one) English as a second language should get in touch with the organization soon to help get these programs up and running.
Get Out and Give
By Ramón Lovato
Recent tallies indicate that there are approximately 800 nonprofit organizations in Santa Fe. Whether feeding the hungry or building houses, these groups give and give all year round, not just during the holidays. This season, you can make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Below are just a few of the organizations that have volunteer opportunities this holiday season. For more information on volunteering, see page 20.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern New Mexico
Be a positive role model in a child’s life.
Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families
Educate the community about domestic violence or simply help out around the shelter.
The Food Depot
Provide food to hungry families, or throw your own food drive.
1222 Siler Road, 471-1633,
Food for Santa Fe
Help feed a family in need.
Habitat for Humanity
Build a house or lend a hand at the ReStore.
Whether you’d prefer to deliver food or help in the kitchen, Kitchen Angels needs you.
Santa Fe Watershed Association
Help keep the Santa Fe River trash-free.
The holidays are always an important time to consider one’s elders.
Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society
Dog walkers are often intimidated by the cold, but it’s the dogs that suffer.
St. Elizabeth Shelter for the Homeless
It gets cold at this time of year, and a shelter can mean the difference between life and death for the homeless.
Solace Crisis Treatment Center
Support rape or abuse victims with a caring voice during a hard time of year.
General information: 988-1951; hotline: 1-800-721-RAPE,
United Way of Santa Fe County
Give your time and expertise to the youth of our community.
Wild Earth Guardians
Helping protect wildlife and the natural world can be as easy as stuffing envelopes and planning events.
It’s hard to be young. ¡YouthWorks! aims to help. You can help, too. Make a difference in the lives of at-risk youths and those who need guidance.