ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico Voices for Children is honoring four exceptional people at its annual Spirit of Hope Awards Ceremony this weekend. Speaker of the House Ben Lujan will be honored posthumously with the Alice King Public Service Award. Frank Sanchez, who is known, among other things, as one of the lead plaintiffs in New Mexico’s first successful Voting Rights Act lawsuit, will receive the Patty Jennings and Polly Arango Citizen Advocacy Award.
“Speaker Lujan really embodied the spirit of what a citizen legislator should be,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., Executive Director of NM Voices. “He was humble yet wise—a true statesman who never forgot his working-class roots. He left a 38-year legacy of accomplishments, most notably as a powerful advocate for working poor families,” she added.
“Frank Sanchez has also made advocacy his life-long mission,” Dr. García said. “His work has run the gamut from legal challenges of discriminatory voting laws to creating, and later, funding the work of numerous advocacy groups,” she said. He is currently the Executive Director of the Needmor Fund.
New to the event this year is the Spirit of Hope Award, which was created to honor those who provide direct services or run programs that touch individual children. Those honorees are Ventura Lovato of Santo Domingo Pueblo, who leads an after-school program called Native Vision, and Ronalda Warito-Tome, a member of the Navajo Nation, who is a Parent Training Specialist with the Education for Parents of Indian Children with Special Needs (EPICS) program.
“We created this award because we wanted to honor the invaluable work done by New Mexico’s dedicated direct service providers,” Dr. García said. “They are doing the tangible day-to-day work that impacts whole communities by changing one life at a time. They bring a unique and critical perspective to the issues we all work on, which lends great value to our work as advocates,” she said.
The 2013 Spirit of Hope Gala is 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23 at Sandia Resort and Casino, and is made possible in part by the following sponsors: St. Joseph Community Health, United Healthcare, AFSCME, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, and Molina Healthcare. Tickets may be purchased online at www.nmvoices.org. All proceeds benefit New Mexico Voices for Children.
New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities. 625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505.244.9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org