Two women to retire from jobs at nonprofits

Hannah Grover
Linda Mickey of the San Juan United Way, left, and Sarah Kaynor of the Economic Council Helping Others Inc. are honored Thursday during a ceremony at San Juan College in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – Linda Mickey and Sara Kaynor view nonprofit organizations as vital to the local community.

The two women have cumulatively worked for more than 40 years for two nonprofit groups. Mickey has worked at the San Juan United Way for 14 years, and Kaynor has been with Economic Council Helping Others Inc. for about 27 years.

But, by the end of this year, both Mickey and Kaynor will have retired as the executive director of their respective organizations. Mickey plans to retire next month after the San Juan United Way hires a new executive director while Kaynor plans to continue serving as executive director of ECHO until the end of the year.

"It's an awesome responsibility, and I think it's a good time for new blood," Mickey said.

During a volunteer appreciation ceremony on Thursday, San Juan College officials recognized the women for their devotion to the community.

"Many lives have changed because of these two ladies," said Lucy Haber, assistant director of San Juan College's community learning center.

Finding people to replace Mickey and Kaynor could be a challenge, especially for ECHO Inc., which offers a wide variety of services.

Audience members applaud Thursday as Linda Mickey and Sarah Kaynor are honored during a ceremony at San Juan College in Farmington.

“I’ve had the luxury of growing with the program and the changes we’ve made throughout the years,” Kaynor said.

The ideal candidate for her position would have some knowledge of food distribution, child care and mortgages. The housing program is one of the relatively new programs the nonprofit offers. Since 2009, ECHO has helped more than 60 families achieve the dream of owning a home. The nonprofit also offers food boxes and utility assistance.

Kaynor said one unique thing about San Juan County is that the local nonprofits work together to serve the community. In fact, when Kaynor took over the nearly bankrupt nonprofit in 1989, the San Juan United Way was one of the organizations that stepped up to help her with the financial challenges.

The collaboration between nonprofits and support from the community have been key factors in the success of both ECHO and San Juan United Way, the two women said.

After Mickey started working part time for the San Juan United Way, she was impressed by the willingness of the community to donate money and time.

"It's especially important now with the economic challenges we face," Mickey said. "A lot of people have lost their jobs."

With the loss of jobs, people need the services offered by nonprofits.

"Unfortunately, it's a vicious cycle," Mickey said. "When times get hard, needs grow."

San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass, left, shakes hands with Linda Mickey and Sarah Kaynor Thursday during a ceremony for their planned retirement at the 25th annual Volunteer Recognition Awards and Service Learning Reception on the SJC campus in Farmington.

Kaynor said that as those needs grow, the money from donations also decreases, and nonprofits are forced to find ways to do more with less.

“There really is a finite point where you just can’t,” she said.

She said community members can help the nonprofits by volunteering time or money, and she encouraged people in the county to look into the variety of nonprofits in the area.

“Undoubtedly, there’s going to be a program that really speaks to them,” she said.

For Kaynor, that program is the Pet Partners program. After she retires, she plans on dedicating more time to serving others by taking her 3-year-old golden retriever to the hospital, nursing home and child care centers to interact with patients, residents and children.

“I’ve always said I want to retire to a life of volunteerism, and that is what I intend to do,” she said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.