Taking action to benefit those less fortunate is a year-round need across town, the country and around the world. The holiday season, however, tends to enhance the plight of others often causing a welcomed rise in charitable contributions.
Volunteerism is not held to any culture, political ideology or religion. It is pure in purpose.
There are many ways to lend a hand to people and animals in Taos, whether its putting food on the tables for underprivileged families with Taos Feeds Taos; putting a smile on a needy child's face; offering hope to a teen in crisis; or helping the dedicated folks at Stray Hearts and Feral Feline Friends make a difference.
An extra hour or two of your time every week or a donation can make a meaningful impact in the lives of many, including yourself. Giving also sets an excellent example of humility and selflessness for children. It is a great family activity.
Below is a list of organizations and causes that hold special fundraisers this time of year.
Calabash y Mas
Strange fruit, beautiful benefit
In December 2015, it was elbow-to-elbow room at the Taos Country Club during the inaugural Calabash y Mas (formerly Calabash Bash) gourd-art fundraiser. Up for auction were California-grown gourds given to local artists on which they explored the strange, new canvas culminating in exquisite transformations depicting such creations as a crane, a hippo and masks.
A tattoo artist beautifully scribed scripture onto his gourd. Taos Pueblo fashion designer Patricia Michaels dressed her hollowed-out fruit in fabric adding LED lights. Another gourd was motorized — it rotated on its base.
The event raised $32,000 in three hours for Stray Hearts Animal Shelter and the Taos Men's Shelter. It has been growing strong ever since.
This year's event will be held Dec. 6, from 5 to 8 p.m. at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa. It will solely benefit Stray Hearts Animal Shelter. It continues to be a silent and live auction of gourds painted and decorated by some of the area's finest artists. New this year, wood boxes and retablos decorated by local artists will also be auctioned off.
Admission is $25. For more information, visit the Calabash y Mas Facebook page or call (575) 758-2981.
CAV Holiday Angel Tree
Be an angel
The best part about handing out presents to children is seeing the looks on their faces. This is about making a child's Christmas a little brighter, Santa or no Santa. The Holiday Angel Tree isn’t about Santa. It’s about community caring for their own and why it’s called the “Angel Tree” in the first place.
For 22 years, the residents and businesses throughout the northern communities have come together with generous support to help Community Against Violence provide holiday gifts for thousands of families.
The first year CAV helped about 20 children who were survivors and/or witnesses of domestic and sexual abuse. Last year, nearly 500 matches were met by generous community members for children from all over Taos County.
Unlike many other charitable efforts, the CAV Angel Tree serves clients and their children without additional financial restrictions. Volunteer Angels list each child’s wishes on paper angels hung on the decorated tree in the CAV lobby. Community members can pick up the wish lists before Thanksgiving.
Individuals and businesses all participate. Often mothers and fathers bring their children to CAV to pick a wish list from the tree as part of their holiday tradition. Wrapped gifts, marked with the Angel’s number (to protect identities), are returned to CAV in time for the coordinator to organize distribution the weekend before Christmas. You can also drop off a monetary donation in lieu of a gift.
Pick up your “Angel” on the tree in the reception area of CAV, 945 Salazar Road. Return your purchased gifts to CAV by Dec. 17. Contact CAV at (575) 758-8082 or online at taoscav.org.
Christmas Santa Train
A Cumbres & Toltec ride for charity and cheer
A ride on the historic locomotives of Cumbers & Toltec through a "living museum" where things haven't changed much since 1930 is not only a thrill for kids and adults, but helps make the lives of children less fortunate that much brighter.
This season's Christmas Santa Trains on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad will depart from Chama, New Mexico, on Dec. 8 and 9 and from Antonito, Colorado on Dec. 15 and 16. Tickets are $5 per person in addition to an unwrapped gift or nonperishable food item donation per person for the Food Bank charity drive or Toys for Tots program.
Reservations are required and can be made by phone (1-888-286-2737) or online at cumbrestoltec.com. Read more about the train on Page?.
A critter's Christmas
They come trotting alongside their humans feeling something is in the air — something possibly of the treat variety, a dog play date or something even better such as of the jolly-St.-Nick persuasion. They come in elf hats and red coats. They come with jingle bells dangling from their collars. They come to pose with Santa and pant excitedly at the chance to tell him about the bones and chew toys they want this Christmas. And for some lucky cats and dogs, it's the day they'll meet their forever families.
This is Santa Paws — an annual holiday event for our animal friends, including those from Stray Hearts Animal Shelter. This event is held every year from noon to 4 p.m. at the courtyard in front of Op. Cit. Books in the John Dunn House Shops just steps away from Bent Street to coincide with Bonfires on Bent Street. This year, that day is Saturday, Dec. 8.
Of course, this event is fun for the humans, too, as we get a professional photograph taken with our animal companions. The $15 for the photo goes to Stray Hearts. Plus, there will be hot beverages and snacks including a New Mexican food buffet, smorgasbord of s’mores, plus farolitos, music, deals, drawings and bonfires.
Stray Hearts will bring along some dogs that are available for adoption — and some cats if it's not freezing outside — and the public is welcome to take the dogs for a walk to get to know them (with a Stray Hearts volunteer, so there's nothing to be nervous about).
If you don't have a pet companion or can't bring them along, you can still donate.
And in case you can’t make it to Santa Paws, on Dec. 15, El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa will host Santa Claus and Paws from noon-4 p.m. El Monte Sagrado is a pet friendly hotel and will have a beautiful backdrop for holiday photos with Santa, you and your pet. The $15 charge benefits Stray Hearts Animal Shelter. El Monte Sagrado is located at 317 Kit Carson Road, Taos. (575) 758-3502, elmontesagrado.com
Taos Feeds Taos
‘Love Joy Peace’
Taos Feeds Taos is as much of a tradition around here during the holiday season as Midnight Mass and Christmas Eve at the Pueblo. But while those ceremonies fill souls, for the last 33 years, Taos Feeds Taos has been filling empty bellies.
It’s been three decades since B&B owner Jim Ulmer saw not only the need to feed Taoseños during the holidays, but, more importantly, the benefits of a coordinated effort to do so. He saw that there was a lot of duplication in different organizations for distributing holiday food, and he had a long-range plan to reach everybody in need. Ulmer also believed the community should pass out food so families could spend their money on gifts for their families. Francis Córdova and former Taos Mayor Eloy Jeantette, were the original movers-and-shakers behind getting Taos Feeds Taos off the ground.
The first 300 baskets, including turkeys, were handed out in 1986. Two years later, 500 baskets went out the door. These days, the all-volunteer board of a dozen people raises funds year round and buys food for 1,100 baskets. That number can climb up to as many as 1,200. The average amount of individual donations reaches approximately $72,000 per year and every penny is used to make sure there is enough food for as many baskets as it takes.
Store donations through cooperation with Cid's Food Market, Smith's, Albertsons and Super Save also help with making up any difference. Look for special TFT boxes in each store for nonperishable goods collection. For the perishable items, such as the hams that will be added to baskets this year, the stores submit bids to TFT who buys in bulk.
The organization supports the cost of food through individual donations and through local schools who hold competitions for the most donations by a classroom. But, most of all, hundreds of volunteers make this massive effort possible.
TFT has developed a solid process that focuses on getting food to those most in need. Through word-of-mouth, radio and newspaper announcements, and website notifications, the organization lets Taos County residents know where and when they can apply for the food boxes, which begins in mid-November and runs through early December.
Many folks in Taos County are reticent to acknowledge their hardship, so TFT also relies on others to call in to register people in need. And New Mexico State Police deliver an average of 10 to 12 boxes to homebound recipients.
Volunteers are always needed to help tape boxes, set up the distribution area, pick up donated food and sort food beginning on Dec. 15 (1-4 p.m.); Dec. 17 (11 a.m. 4 p.m.); and Dec. 18 (10 a.m. until finished). Boxes will be filled on Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. until finished (lunch provided). Everything takes place at the National Guard Armory.
Taos distribution is on Dec. 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Dec 21, 8 a.m. to noon at the National Guard Armory on County Road 110. On Dec. 21, boxes will be distributed to recipients in Questa/Cerro (Harvest Church from 1-4 p.m.); Peñasco (El Centro Comunidad from 8 a.m.-noon); and Amalia/Costilla (RCCLA offices from 8 a.m.-noon).
Over the 33 years, nothing gives the TFT board and volunteers more satisfaction than this time of year.
"This was Ulmer's dream," Córdova told The Taos News a couple years ago. "It always feels good and when you help somebody, it always comes back. A recipient told me last year that they wouldn't know what to do without the program; they could buy their grandchildren gifts and otherwise wouldn't have been able to."
Nodding in agreement, his wife Ernestina added, "If we touch even just one person who really needs the basket, then it's all worth it."
For more information, visit taosfeedstaos.org or call (575) 613-5490 or (575) 586-1965 for Questa/Cerro/Amalia/Costilla; (214) 236-1650 or (575) 758-9243 for Taos; or (575) 770-1621 for Peñasco.
More causes and volunteer opportunities
BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS provides mentoring relationships for boys and girls, age 5-18 through school- and community-based programs. Call Oralia González at (575) 779-0003 or Karen Koyote at (575) 770-5751.
DREAMTREE PROJECT seeks volunteers to teach life skills classes to youth in this transitional living program, including everything from how to make a burrito to how to change a car tire. Call (575) 758-9595 or send a text message to (575) 770-7704. For more information, visit dreamtreeproject.org.
EQUINE SPIRIT SANCTUARY seeks individuals to assist in the growth of ESS and day-to-day operations such as assisting with activities and fundraising efforts. The ESS mission is to offer programs for people in education and activities relating to horses, and rescue and rehabilitation for horses. For more information, email email@example.com or go online to equinespiritsanctuary.org.
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY. Help a Taos family realize their dream of owning a home and paying an affordable mortgage in their hometown. No experience necessary, training and friendly, patient supervision provided. Call (575) 758-7827 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the taoshabitat.org.
H.E.A.R.T. OF TAOS helps women transition out of homelessness and provides a pet- and family-friendly shelter. Call (575) 776-4245 or go online to heartoftaos.org.
LITTLE POOR ONE FOOD PANTRY distributes commodities every Thursday afternoon from noon-4 p.m. at the old convent building, 205 Don Fernando Street. Call (575) 770-2434.
NORTH CENTRAL FOOD PANTRY in Questa distributes food the second and fourth Friday of the month from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at 148 Embargo Road. Call (575) 586-0694 or visit the Village of Questa's Facebook page.
NOT FORGOTTEN OUTREACH seeks volunteers to help during any of the upcoming programs and/or special events geared to veterans and their families. Call (575) 224-1503 or go online to notforgottenoutreach.org.
READING TO END RACISM seeks individuals to be trained as readers and mentors. For more information, see facebook.com/TaosRER or contact Daniel Escalante at (720) 987-8148.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN YOUTH CORPS. Throughout the year, RMYC has various opportunities for volunteers to give their time. From Service Day Events such as "River and Trail Clean-Up Day" and "Make a Difference Day," to basic office duties, many opportunities exist. If interested in volunteering, please fill out a volunteer application online at youthcorps.org and bring it to the RMYC office at 1203 King Drive #3, Taos. Call (575) 751-1420 for more information.
SHARED TABLE distributes food and basic health care items the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 11 a.m.-noon at El Pueblo Methodist Church, 1309 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, El Prado, and from 2-3 p.m. at the Talpa Community Center on State Road 518. Call Pastor Cheri Lyon at (505) 440-6849.
ST. JAMES FOOD PANTRY offers supplemental groceries to all every Thursday from 12:30-4 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church, 208 Camino de Santiago, Taos. Call (575) 758-2790 or visit stjamestaos.org.
TAOS FERAL FELINE FRIENDS is a 100 percent volunteer organization and operates the only facility in Northern New Mexico that rescues, shelters and relocates feral cats. Call (575) 737-9208, visit taosferalfelinefriends.tripod.com or email email@example.com.
TAOS YOUTH AND FAMILY CENTER seeks community members to donate their time to tutor children, participate in computer classes, accompany field trips and sometimes just to be there to lend an ear. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (575) 758-4160.
And for even more programs, check the "Anuncios" and "Volunteer Opportunities" listings found weekly in The Taos News.
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