Farmington organizations earn $5,000 grants from PNM foundation

Officials from PATH, Habitat chapter say money is badly needed

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Jonna Sharpe, CEO of People Assisting the Homeless, says her organization has seen a big decline in fundraising since the COVID-19 shutdown began.

FARMINGTON — A pair of Farmington nonprofit organizations that address the region's lack of affordable housing received grants from the Public Service Company of New Mexico's Resources Foundation. Both groups say the money comes at a time when their fundraising efforts are suffering due to the economic downturn.

People Assisting the Homeless and the Tres Rios Chapter of Habitat for Humanity were each awarded a $5,000 grant from the PNM Resources Foundation, part of a total of $100,000 the latter doled out to nonprofit organizations around the state.

Jonna Sharpe, the chief executive officer of People Assisting the Homeless, said her organization would use the money for general operations.

"It will help pay for our utilities and cleaning supplies – things we most definitely need, especially with the extra sanitary precautions we need to do right now," she said.

Sharpe said this is the first time PATH has received a grant from PNM, and it comes at an opportune time. The organization provides temporary shelter for an estimated 800 clients a year and serves approximately 30,000 meals annually through its Daily Bread program.

"We've been hit hard (in fundraising) from COVID," she said, describing the impact the economic downturn has taken on PATH's fortunes.

The Farmington nonprofit organization People Assisting the Homeless has received a $5,000 grant from the PNM Resources Foundation.

Sharpe said a significant amount of her group's donations come from oil and gas firms, so when the price of oil plummeted at the same time the COVID-19 shutdown occurred, it was a double dose of bad news.

"A lot of our fundraising diminished sharply," she said.

Sharpe praised the application process for the PNM grant, explaining it was user friendly and fast. PATH was informed it had received a grant just a couple of weeks after submitting its application, she said.

"Sometimes, you cobble together a grant (proposal) and you forget you even applied for it (before you get an answer)," she said.

Also receiving a grant was Habitat's Tres Rios Chapter. Spokesperson Hope Tyler said PNM had matched the donations of its employees before, but this was the first time her organization had received a full grant.

The money will be used to build wheelchair access ramps for the homes of qualified recipients and to construct housing for a low-income family, she said.

Tres Rios Habitat for Humanity spokesperson Hope Tyler, left, joins board member Frank Hayes and construction supervisor Greg Anderson at the site of the most recent home the organization constructed on Crouch Mesa in this April 2019 file photo.

"We are ecstatic that we got the money from PNM," she said. "We really, really believe this money is going to go very far in starting the construction on our 12th home, which we are hoping to break ground on soon."

Tyler said the organization is trying to decide on a site for that project and hopes to announce the location and the name of the recipient family as early as next month.

She said the local Habitat chapter also has been hit hard by COVID-19 and the economic downturn, seeing its activities curtailed because of social distancing and its fundraising decline.

"We had to shut down just like everyone else, but we were able to go back to work in May," she said, explaining the organization was able to finish a large project for a family that had experienced a water line break.

Tyler's said her group has seen a steep decline in individual donations over the past several months.

"That's not surprising, because I think a lot of people are unemployed and unable to donate," she said.

Tyler said the chapter was fortunate in that it was able to sell one of the mortgages it was carrying for one of its families, and that allowed it to build up its operating funds during this period of difficulty. She said the Tres Rios Chapter actually hopes to increase its home-building activity, going from constructing one new home every other year or every three years to building a new one annually.

But that depends on where fundraising goes from here, she said, adding that the pandemic has impacted her organization in other ways. Social distancing requirements have made it much more difficult to arrange for volunteers, she said, and business at the Habitat ReStore — a significant contributor to the chapter's bottom line – has suffered, as well.

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"We continued to need donations for the store because the store supports our building efforts," she said.

PATH and the Habitat chapter were the only two local recipients of the PNM grants. The others were located around the state, including organizations in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Silver City.

"Providing power is at the core of what PNM does, but we do so much more than that for New Mexico," Laurie Roach, the executive director of the PNM Resources Foundation, stated in a press release announcing the grants. "The Foundation supports increasing access to affordable housing because it can lead to job creation, economic growth, vibrant communities, and personal transformation – all of which will help move our state in the right direction."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.