United Way of Northern New Mexico Hosts Unprecedented Non-profit Expo & Music Festival UNITE!

LANL Deputy Director John Sarrao serves on the UWNNM Board of Trustees and in his role as the official Triad National Security representative, introduces special guest Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, right, to the crowd gathered Sunday for the non-profit expo & music festival UNITE! held in the plaza in Española. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks to the crowd Sunday in Española. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos Daily Post


An unprecedented non-profit expo & music festival filled the Plaza Sunday in Española. For the past six months, United Way of Northern New Mexico (UWNNM), Triad National Security, the City of Española, Sancre Productions and more than 50 non-profit organizations teamed up to engineer this large-scale community event that celebrates UNITE! – United Way’s Nonprofit Network.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Deputy Director John Sarrao serves on the UWNNM Board of Trustees. In his role as the official Triad National Security representative at Sunday’s event, Sarrao spoke to the crowd gathered at the event and following his presentation, introduced special guest Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham who also spoke to the crowd.

“Triad is excited to participate in this event and provide support because of the importance of community, which is always true and especially as we’ve learned through the COVID-19 pandemic and recent wildfires,” Sarrao said.

This is the type of event consistent with Triad’s strategic objective of excellence in community relations, he said, adding that it also provides the opportunity for the community to engage with a large network of like-minded partners, both to access needed services, as appropriate, and to potentially volunteer to contribute and help with their missions.

“It is great that the governor could join us today and recognize a subset of those who are making an important difference in the community,” Sarrao said. “We thank everyone who came together to make this event a success.”

The governor thanked and celebrated the 2022 Change Maker Awards given to the unsung heroes in rural and frontier communities of Northern New Mexico.


  • Louis Sanchez for his cultural contributions as the founder of Los Blue Ventures;
  • Ben Sandoval, director of the Española YMCA Teen Center for his tireless commitment to youth;
  • Cristian Madrid for being a driving force behind the creation of the Española Pathways Homeless Shelter, Veronica Krupnick for her work with adolescents in foster care;
  • Jeanne Alvarez for her leadership work on COVID-19 vaccinations at Las Clinicas del Norte;
  • Vanessa Garcia for her work assisting families displaced by the wildfires with Safe Space New Mexico Fire Relief Fund; and
  • Carol Bondy for her work with the Abiquiu News and volunteerism in Rio Arriba.

“Sunday’s event is a beautiful example of what can be accomplished when a community pulls together,” UWNNM Board President Liddie Martinez said. “The UNITE! Expo exemplified the spirit of collaboration as United Way of Northern New Mexico could not have organized such a successful event without cooperation and assistance from county and city leadership, multijurisdictional fire and police personnel, regional nonprofit organizations and their volunteers and our Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, all focused on informing our community members of the support services available daily and in times of great need.”

For decades, UWNNM has invested tens of millions of dollars into Northern New Mexico’s nonprofit industry. Last fall, UWNNM distributed to 28 non-profit organizations a total of $475,000 in Community Action Fund awards. The Community Action Fund collects tax-deductible donations from individuals, employee payroll deductions and grants. The largest grant supporting UWNNM is the Rio Arriba Collective Impact Grant for $200,000 awarded by Triad National Security, which helped fund the UNITE! event.

The UNITE! Expo and music festival united 55 exhibitors, more than 1,500 community members, the City of Española and Rio Arriba County government employees and elected leaders, beloved Hispano and country music artists from New Mexico, FEMA federal caseworkers, and the governor.

“The United Way of Northern New Mexico would like to celebrate the producers of UNITE! – who made the event possible,” UWNNM Executive Director Monica Griego said. “The Española City Council and department officials provided incredible leadership on the planning of this event. Sancre Productions, whose CEO also is my husband of 25 years, brought incredible talent and concert execution to UNITE!, donating months of their time, expertise and hard work toward event direction and execution out of an abundance of love and respect for the hard working and proud people of Northern New Mexico and Española in particular.”

At the event were non-profit exhibitors displaying their programs and services and informing the public about how they have supported the victims of the Calf Canyon Fire and Cerro Pelado Fire. Also in attendance was FEMA mobile command caseworker assistance.

“We are so honored to have the support and collaboration with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham,” Griego said. “So many non-profit leaders and community members had an opportunity to meet with her at the event and attendance confirms that the work of the UNITE! coalition is recognized and supported by our highest levels of elected officials in the state. We are doing some incredible work.”

On behalf of Zia Credit Union Valerie Martinez presents a $1,080 donation to UWNNM at Sunday’s event. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com

Gabriella Salazar, Los Blue Ventures de Louis Sanchez, and Sim Balkey performed at Sunday’s event. Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com

The UWNNM Board of Trustees, staff and others celebrate UNITE! Photo by Jenn Bartram/ladailypost.com


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