United Way Executive Director Kristy Ortega with Los Alamos Fire Chief Troy Hughes who is chairing this year’s campaign. The artwork depicts Hughes when he served on the United Way Board in Nebraska. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Hughes and United Way Executive Director Kristy Ortega sat down with the Los Alamos Daily Post last week to discuss the campaign, which runs through December. The community kick-off event for the annual fundraising campaign is 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 at Ashley Pond Park and includes music by The Craig Martin Experience, food by The Blue Window Bistro and drinks by “de la Crème” Cream Soda Creations.
Hughes brings plenty of experience to his role with the nonprofit organization, having served on the United Way Board in Grand Island, Nebr. He served for three years and was first vice president, about to become president, the year he was hired to lead the Los Alamos Fire Department. LAPS Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus is in training under Hughes this year to prepare to chair next year’s campaign.
“With United Way it’s all about giving – it’s not about what kind of paycheck you have or the kind of car you drive – it’s about what you can give,” Hughes said. “Maybe it’s only a dollar a paycheck but hopefully they will see the benefit United Way provides to the community and begin to volunteer their time as well.”
Ortega explained that in this community there are many very fortunate people but also a significant number of individuals and families in need. Community nonprofits are asking for $1,129,712 this year to meet the needs of their clients, she said.
“It’s the power of the community coming together … many people giving a little bit that can really help so much to meet these needs,” Ortega said. “People using their time and talent can mean more than money in some circumstances. The needs are there and growing and we want donations to be an investment for people and we can show them at any level the impact they have made.”
“We’ve had some very generous donors over the years and we really appreciate them and take their donations very seriously,” Hughes said. “There’s not an unlimited bank of money to meet the many needs in the community, so at United Way every dollar is vetted to ensure those truly in need receive the assistance.”
United Way has many volunteer committees that work hard to help those most vulnerable in the community. Each plays an important role to the progress made in Northern New Mexico because UWNNM is a volunteer driven organization, Ortega said. To get involved, individuals can sign up by emailing Volunteer@UnitedWayNNM.org. Updates are sent out as volunteer opportunities come up throughout the year. United Way Day of Action, mailings, office work, proof reading and event coordination are just a few opportunities available.
This year’s activities include:
- Day of Action in Los Alamos in which volunteers from UWNNM partnered with Los Alamos County, American Legion Post 90 and the Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization to help clean up and remove fire dangers in the yards of elderly and physically unable people in the community.
- Day of Action in Espanola in which volunteers from UWNNM partnered with the City of Espanola and Del Norte Credit Union to clean up Valdez Park.
- Forecasting for Life After Retirement – United Way of Northern New Mexico and The Foundation for Financial Wellness, a non-profit hosted a small group of community members to discuss, ‘Forecasting for Life After Retirement.’ This workshop helped individuals headed to retirement verify their income needs, sources of income, and calculate their gap. Something that also came out of the workshop was keeping your mind sharp through volunteering with United Way and other local nonprofits.
- Basic Needs Subcommittee – In an effort to identify the needs in the community and find gaps, UWNNM is leading this subcommittee of the Community Health Council. The Los Alamos Police Department states that since there are no shelters in Los Alamos and it is difficult to provide someone who is a victim of domestic violence or homelessness with a safe place to stay when services or food is needed, i.e. middle of the night. So far this program has helped 13 individuals and families. The ultimate plan is for transitional housing of some sort in Los Alamos.
- 100 Women Who Care – A group of dynamic women focused on helping our community by reaching at least 100 women to each contribute $100 to a cause identified by the group via UWNNM. Funds raised during this first event will go towards our Behavior Health Awareness Campaign creating awareness while working towards “normalizing” behavioral health issues and the stigma associated with treating them. Future funds raised will go toward whatever community need or project this group identifies.
- Behavioral Health Initiative – UWNNM is starting to focus on behavioral health more and more every year because of overwhelming common thread of many challenges in our community. Behavioral health is a hard topic to discuss with community but stress is very relatable to most.
The UWNNM mission is to engage human and financial resources to improve the quality of life of the people in the communities served by the organization.
For more information, to donate or volunteer, visit www.UnitedWayNNM.org.
Upcoming UWNNM Youth Team Events:
- Dinner Over Diamond 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13 on the LAHS Overpass;
- Tastes The Sky 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 127 on the tarmac at the Los Alamos Airport;
- High Tea On The Hill 1-2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18 in the LAHS Lobby; and
- Hamburger Night at Bandelier Grill 5:30-8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26.