Help where it's needed

Vivian Nesbitt and Lisanne Cole perform benefit plays for HEART of Taos


Sometimes, during the winter months, the “haves” forget how lucky they are. The cold bites at them as they make their way to their cars after work, which quickly heat up. A house full of warmth, light, a good meal on the stove and cozy pajamas then await them at the end of their day. The forgetfulness is not intentional. It’s human nature to be complacent.

The “have-nots” can’t escape how unlucky they are. They face desperation every day. The homeless – women, children, families and pets – look into the windows of the “haves” and silently, sadly retreat to cars without heat or food.

Often, it’s worse. They have no car or shelter, and the struggle to find another night’s safe haven with their sleeping bags is their only concern. And, at its worst, they are not just hungry and cold, but scared, with nothing to their names and little hope to sustain them in their life-threatening situations.

This is where HEART of Taos intervenes, offering – as its acronym symbolizes – Hope, Empowerment, Advocacy, Respect and Transitional housing.

Thursday night (Oct. 12), a special performance to benefit HEART of Taos will be given, featuring award-winning actors Vivian Nesbitt and Lisanne Cole in two one-actor, one-act plays at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

“The Long and Short of It: A Return to Taos” is Nesbitt’s and Cole’s collaborative shoutout to the community in support of the homeless women and children who receive humanitarian intervention from HEART of Taos. Nesbitt will perform her acclaimed “The Bark and the Tree,” and Cole will be “Walking Upright” in her take on “a humorous life, one filled with laughter and joy, and coming home to oneself.”

Ama Khan, co-founder of HEART of Taos and its executive director, said, “We, as a nonprofit that doesn’t request federal funds, are mainly supported by grants and the incredible generosity of our community-based donors. And, then we luck out and get stellar events that donate its proceeds to us, as is happening [Thursday] night.”

Nesbitt and Cole bring a star-studded presence to Taos. Nesbitt has been featured in such TV shows as “Breaking Bad,” “Manhattan,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Longmire,” “In Plain Sight,” “The Night Shift” and “The Messenger.” Cole is highly regarded for her work in indie films and a feature film, “Apartment Zero” with Colin Firth.

And both have a strong affinity with Taos and are committed to raising the awareness that, during any given day in Taos County, there are many homeless women and children.

“HEART of Taos is definitely an organization that deserves the spotlight,” said Cole, who has an extensive background of her own in assisting the homeless. “The work they do – and how in such a short time they have become the beacon of hope for women and children – is simply amazing.”

Since its inception a mere two years ago, HEART of Taos has assisted more than 400 of these homeless people. Khan explained, “Without a brick-and-mortar shelter, we solicit private housing partners, where a guest room can provide temporary shelter. We also have a program called LIFTS – Low-Income Family/Tenant Stipend – where we provide monies to families that otherwise can’t afford to accept additional family members into their homes. LIFTS is particularly successful in stabilizing the homeless with their own families.”

HEART of Taos is much more than transitional housing, though. According to Khan, “We try to educate women in the economic realities of our time, for which they’re often not prepared.” That can include such tools as résumé writing, vocational information and business-appropriate clothing. “We help women to get counseling and help them understand their present homelessness is only an experience from which they can certainly recover. Any one of us could be in their shoes. When people live on the edge, with no wriggle room and paycheck to paycheck, it only takes one trigger event to begin that downward spiral.”

She said, “It’s vital, now more than ever, that we think of everyone as part of an extended family and treat them as such. When the homeless realize the community is truly behind them, it lifts them up.”

Cole agreed. “In my years working with soup kitchens in Los Angeles and at St. Elizabeth’s in Santa Fe, I am always humbled by the gratitude of those seeking help, and I am often struck that people who have nothing to give still find a way of gifting you back with joy and love.”

Khan said she believes her whole life was a preparation for establishing HEART of Taos. When she met Kathryn Herman, she said she was overjoyed to realize her dream. “Kathy is a ‘pay-it-forward’ individual and provided the seed money to make this happen,” Khan said. “Kathy, in addition to being my precious co-founder, is president of our board of directors and brings her own strong dedication to this community.”

With winter bearing down on us, HEART of Taos is seeking donations of warm clothing, toiletries and other items to provide comfort to the homeless, including men’s items. To see how you can help, visit

Doors open at 6:15 p.m. The performance begins at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20, and they are available online at or in advance at (575) 758-2052. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the nearby Taos Center for the Arts office, located at 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For more information on the performance and HEART of Taos, visit