For nearly two decades Executive Director Ellen Morris Bond has been the face and voice of Self Help, Inc. She is retiring in six weeks and new executive director Maura Taylor is already on board.
“Due to the community’s generosity, we’re able to overlap,” Morris Bond said. “Maura is becoming an expert in all things Self Help. I like bringing a new generation into the nonprofit world. I feel really good about leaving Self Help in Maura’s hands.”
Taylor said she’s thrilled with Self Help’s collaborative spirit and broad network of volunteers.
“I feel very supported by Ellen, our board and the volunteers,” she said.
Born in rural Virginia, Maura Taylor grew up in Los Alamos and graduated from Los Alamos High School. She recently returned to northern New Mexico from Portland, Ore. where she worked as a financial analyst. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in economics from Lewis & Clark College, where she graduated summa cum laude. In her free time, she’s a singer who in the past has been a solo performer as well as a member and founder of several ensembles.
“I’ve wanted to move back to New Mexico for a time,” Taylor said “I took Los Alamos for granted when I was growing up here. I’ve wanted to do nonprofit management since high school. This is my dream job.”
Self Help was founded in 1969 by members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church as a seed money grant program to support rural agriculture livelihood, according to its website. Devi Raju, the first director, expanded its priorities. Joyce Pyburn, the second director was instrumental in expanding the non-profit’s mission and prepared it to step up when the Cerro Grande Fire burned parts of Los Alamos and the surrounding area in 2000. Utilizing a grant from the LANL Foundation, Pyburn and brand new employee, Ellen Morris Bond, tackled the huge task of helping the town recover. When Pyburn retired in 2001, Morris Bond became executive director.
Today, Self Help works on a number of fronts to support those in need in northern New Mexico. From helping out with crises like a fire to helping with poverty-related problems like preventing someone’s utilities from being shut off, Self Help is there in an emergency, Bond said.
“Presently, about 80 percent of our time is spent on responding to critical needs,” Morris Bond said. “We function with a minimum of bureaucracy. We try to provide help the same day, or at least very soon.”
Advocacy is another important facet of Self Help’s work. Self Help will help clients navigate government agencies and sort out the services of the more than 30 helping organizations in northern New Mexico, Morris Bond said.
Self Help, Inc., through a grant from United Way of Northern New Mexico, has initiated an information and referral line accessible at the toll-free number 2-1-1. Information and referral are available from all cell phones and landlines in Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Taos, Mora, San Miguel and Santa Fe Counties. The resources also can be accessed on the internet at www.211nnm.org.
Another program provides seed money and grants that enable clients to start a business, get job training or return to school.
One of the programs Morris Bond is proud of is Self Help’s contribution to the Los Alamos Mental Health Access Project. Through a grant from United Way, Self Help developed a comprehensive mental health website that gets thousands of hits every year.
The website contains local and statewide resources as well as a wealth of information. Visit www.losalamosmentalhealth.org to check out this great resource.
Taylor and Morris Bond are coming up with new ideas every day, they said. One area Taylor is passionate about is getting the word out, especially among young people.
“People are yearning for community,” she said. “Self Help is a place where people can help and connect with their neighbors.”
Taylor plans to use her marketing, social media and design skills to update Self Help’s media profile and let everyone know about Self Help.
“I’m really honored to be carrying on Ellen’s legacy and following in her footsteps,” Taylor said.
Learn more about Self Help at http://selfhelpla.org or contact the office at 505.662.4666, to access its services or volunteer.