Donations To United Way Help Our Neighbors In Need

UWNNM’s Kristy Ortega speaks to Kiwanis as this year’s campaign chair Fire Chief Troy Hughes and United Way Board Chair Steve Boerigter listen at a recent meeting. Photo by Morrie Pongratz
Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos

Kristy Ortega, executive director of United Way of Northern New Mexico (UWNNM), spoke at Kiwanis recently, describing her organization’s activities and seeking volunteer help and donations.

She looked around the room and said, “Every single person in this room has contributed (to UWNNM) in some way,” but the organization always needs more. Seated near her as she spoke was Steve Boerigter, the immediate past president of Kiwanis, who chairs the board of UWNNM.

Last year, Ortega said, UWNNM brought in about $600,000—but requests totaled $1.2 million. UWNNM used the money it received to serve more than 20 organizations.

A grants committee (which frequently needs volunteers) is faced with the task of sorting through the requests each year and making choices.

Ortega was accompanied at Kiwanis by Fire Chief Troy Hughes, this year’s UWNNM campaign chairman, who said he first started working with the United Way about 10 years ago in Nebraska. He said, “My own time is not a lot to give,” so he also donates money. He has found, he said, that dollars that go to United Way “are spent wisely.” He’s hoping that UWNNM can find even more donors this year, and, in an effort to encourage them, he said, the organization will offer rides for up to six donors in the local Classic Air medical helicopter with pilot Geoff Rodgers. Everyone who pledges $100 or more will have a chance to win a ride.

Ortega noted that UWNNM serves both Los Alamos and Rio Arriba Counties, working to support good organizations in the areas of education, financial stability, and health. UWNNM strives to improve behavioral health, advocate for the common good, strengthen local nonprofits by providing resources, assist in program development, and provide basic needs. The programs it supports touch organizations helping every age group—from groups giving help in early child development through those that provide assistance to senior citizens.

Here’s a list of just a few of the organizations Ortega mentioned that receive help from UWNNM: the Family Strengths Network; Embudo Valley Tutoring; the YMCA after-school program; several programs helping those struggling with substance abuse; and a group fighting Alzheimer’s Disease.

In a way, Ortega said, “Everything we do is behavioral health,” and behavioral health is the core objective of one of UWNNM’s newest initiatives. Ortega said her organization is starting with a campaign against stress because everyone knows about stress. She passed out small bags of sand and cards with five suggested stress breakers that take five minutes or less.

Want to find out more about UWNNM’s efforts? Go to

Want to help more directly? Donate, volunteer, or attend a fundraiser. The UWNNM Youth Team is planning a “Hamburger Night” on Monday, Oct. 26, from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m., at the High Altitude Restaurant (located in the site downtown that formerly housed the Manhattan Project Restaurant).