Habitat chapter seeks board members, volunteers, donations at annual meeting

Organization aims to make greater impact, but needs help

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
As homeowner Alan Martin and his dog Maggie watch, Tres Rios Habitat for Humanity volunteer Daniel Sedillo helps build a new porch for Martin and his wife this summer.
  • Tres Rios Habitat for Humanity will hold its annual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14 at Bethany Christian Church, 711 E. 30th St. in Farmington.
  • Anyone interested in the organization is encouraged to attend in person or watch the meeting being streamed on Facebook Live.
  • The organization is seeking new board and committee members.

FARMINGTON — With construction of its latest home scheduled to begin before the holidays, Tres Rios Habitat for Humanity will reach out for the public's help in a variety of ways in the weeks ahead.

The organization, which constructs affordable homes and makes home repairs for low-income families in San Juan County, will hold its annual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14 at Bethany Christian Church, 711 E. 30th St. in Farmington. Anyone interested in the organization is encouraged to attend in person or watch the meeting being streamed on Facebook Live.

Hope Tyler, the group's spokeswoman, said the meeting will include a review of the Tres Rios chapter's accomplishments over the last year, including the completion of its latest home and the home-repair projects it has undertaken. It also will feature a report on the organization's Habitat store and the presentation of its goals for the future.

Tyler said the Tres Rios chapter traditionally has built a new home every two to three years in San Juan County, but it now is taking a more ambitious approach, hoping to complete one every year, in addition to increasing its number of repair projects.

Tyler and other Habitat officials know that meeting those goals will require more volunteers and donations, and they understand the timing of that effort is less than ideal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic slowdown continuing with no end in sight.

The Tres Rios chapter already has seen a significant reduction in financial support, she said.

"A major change we saw is in individual donations," she said. "We went from having (regular donations of) a few hundred dollars a month to very little during the shutdown. And, of course, we were forced by the governor to put all our construction on hold."

Tres Rios Habitat for Humanity volunteer Daniel Sedillo finishes a concrete ramp as part of the construction of a new porch at the home of Alan Martin this summer.

But Habitat officials are not discouraged, even if they have to change their approach to some of their projects. Tyler said the organization is trying to complete at least one home-repair project per quarter, but she noted that task has been made more difficult by the fact that the Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's public health orders have forced Habitat to limit volunteer work days to groups of five people instead of the customary 10 or more.

That means most projects that used to get done in one day now take two or three, as well as more planning and organizing.

"For our Women's Build Day, we used to have 20 volunteers," she said. "We could paint an entire house in one day. Now it takes us a little bit more."

She also noted that the group's annual prime rib dinner fundraiser had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, and that resulted in the loss of a significant revenue stream.

Tyler said there are a number of ways that people can help her organization, and she plans to make it easier to do both in the weeks ahead. People interested in making monetary donations will be able to do so through a PayPal link on the Habitat website and will have the option of doing automated regular payments.

And, in the weeks ahead, Tyler will launch an individual challenge campaign that encourages Habitat supporters to vow to walk a certain distance each day or week while seeking monetary pledges from friends or family members. The campaign likely would begin in October and wrap up by Thanksgiving, she said.

Of course, Habitat continues to welcome in-kind donations of construction materials or services, she said, citing everything from lumber to pest-control work.

For those who prefer to donate their time and effort instead of money, Tyler said Habitat soon will be providing weekly opportunities to do just that in the form of working on its new home, assisting on a home-repair project or working in the Habitat store, which always needs help with cleaning and organizing tasks.

New Mexico Tourism pageant winners join volunteers and officials from Tres Rios Habitat for Humanity at the organization's Habitat Store on Aug. 8 for a work day.

Habitat is starting a new project this month, as it will construct a ramp for a retired woman with a disability in Bloomfield. Tyler said the project will make it easier for the woman to receive her deliveries of bottled oxygen.

She said the organization has been fortunate to be able to rely on financial or in-kind assistance from such companies as the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, Wells Fargo, Lowe's Home Improvement, PNM Electric and Four Corners Community Bank.

"They've all been wonderful partners for us over the last few years," she said.

Individuals who feel compelled to play a more substantive role in the organization also will have the chance to do so. Tyler said five to seven new members are being sought for the 15-member Habitat board of directors, especially folks who have experience with loan origination or marketing and relationship building. She said board members are expected to attend monthly meetings, and the terms typically run for three years.

The organization also has openings on its various committees, including a group that oversees the Habitat store and another that helps select the recipients of its new homes.

"For people who want to help guide our work, there are lots of opportunities," Tyler said.

Anyone interested in serving as a board or committee member, making a donation or serving as a volunteer is encouraged to visit https://www.tresrioshabitat.com/ or attend the Sept. 14 meeting.

A work day at the Habitat store is planned for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, and volunteers are welcome. They should email Tyler at habitatsanjuan@gmail.com or message her via the organization's Facebook page.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.