Editor's Note: This is the Part 14 of a multi-article series on the Prospectors' Legislative Community Forum, held at Western New Mexico University on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Community groups presented their needs and concerns to New Mexico Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez, and Sen. Howie Morales.
Alicia Edwards, The Volunteer Center executive director, said the organization's work is about engaging volunteers to benefit the community.
"We have 30,000 incredible people in this county," Edwards said. "They fill in the gaps. We do a lot of work with seniors and kids. We have 350 kids in the Alimento backpack food program. It has been as high as 420. We also have summer backpack and summer lunch programs. We do a number of things to engage children.
"In our work with seniors, there are two distinct populations of seniors," Edwards said. "There are those who are low-income and struggling with food security. They also have physical and mental health issues. We fill in the gaps of other agencies.
"The reason I say two distinct populations is that volunteers and donors are the other population," Edwards continued. "They give a lot of time and money."
The center recently began a pilot program to provide services at the Mimbres Senior Center, including exercise and health, "so we have seniors in rural areas engaged."
"We are using volunteers to end hunger and poverty," Edwards said. "We have the food pantry, a mobile food pantry and commodities. We don't want to be in the food business forever. We want the food supply to be sustainable. Nationally, municipalities are using food as economic development with 'have a meal together and change the community.'"
She talked about The Commons, as the "physical manifestation of our vision. We built it with a grant through Sen. Bingaman's office. It is on ¾ of an acre, with ½ an acre, the garden. It was designed by architect Kevin Robinson and built by Timberland Construction. It is passive solar, so it is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind. We recover 3,000 gallons of water from each inch of precipitation."
The Commons is located at 13th and Corbin. "We have put all the different pieces of our work in one place," Edwards said. "We work with the community to be self-sufficient, with workshops and education. We appreciate your support."
Hamilton said she liked the idea of teaching children about food and sustaining their health. "When I go to schools I see more food in the trash than was consumed at the cafeteria. How do you find the volunteers?"
"Knock on wood," Edwards said. "We have no problem finding the volunteers. They are amazing people. We provide services no one else can. People can call and say: 'we need a ramp or a meal,' and someone steps forward to volunteer and donate."
Martinez said the backpack program is so important and commented that The Volunteer Center's program has expanded.
Morales asked for clarification. "What are the four communities served by this program? Silver City and Las Cruces and?"
Edward said Farmington is another one up north. "The Volunteer Center, as an organization, is committed to the idea that we work in Grant County, not just Silver City."
Morales said the legislation says Silver City. "Will it have to go directly to the town?"
Edwards said she would call and include all the counties in the legislation.
Nick Seibel, Silver City MainStreet Project manager, gave the presentation for the organization.
"I apologize for being tardy," Seibel said. "I was moving furniture for tonight's chair-ity auction. Your support of MainStreet means a lot. The list goes on for the accomplishments through the efforts of MainStreet. New Mexico MainStreet Program continues to share appropriations. Last year we received $175,000 toward the acquisition of the Silco Theater. We are on the verge of getting it accomplished. The New Mexico Economic Development Department is asking for an appropriation for the MainStreet communities and the Arts and Cultural District communities.
"Our priority is improvement of the Farmers' Market area, with grading and a stage," Seibel said. "Because of the Farmers' Market, Saturday mornings are the busiest days in town.
"Another priority, along with Silver City and others in Grant County and other MainStreet communities in the state is to make changes in liquor laws in New Mexico," Seibel continued. "Alamogordo is ahead of us. The problem is the larger communities buy liquor licenses out of smaller communities. The Pink Store is coming here. Think of having a margarita while you shop in the store in Palomas. You can't do that here."
Morales said last year NM MainStreet got $1 million. "$175,000 was for the Silco?" he asked.
"That amount is half the cost of the building," Seibel said. "We are working with Silver City for a loan. We have larger ideas for all three downtown theaters."
Morales asked about the paving and stage at the Farmers' Market area.
"We have a plan in line with the needs of the Farmers' Market working with MainStreet," Seible said. "The stage would be at the corner of Seventh Street and Bullard and would pull people into the market. Then we need a public restroom facility."
Morales asked what the estimated cost would be.
"Our request is for $150,000," Seibel said. "The greenways estimate is in planning and will be completed in January. I think MainStreet is requesting more this year—$2 million. A request is also in for Arts and Cultural District projects. Silver City would like a wayfinding system."
Martinez commented on the mention of the inability to serve drinks and asked for an update on the changes.
"The proposal in Alamogordo is to redefine economic development and liquor licenses," Seibel said. "They were calling for a study of the problem. We recognize it is a problem. In Clayton, there is no place to get a drink except in private organization buildings. It's hard to keep a liquor license in a small community."
"What about an outside liquor license?" Martinez asked.
"It could be an outside beer and wine license," Seibel said. "We would like to see it structured to create a rural liquor license that is not transferable outside of a rural area. Keep the others transferable."
"Is there any interest in brew pubs?" Martinez asked.
"Q's Bistro is working on a brewing license with Bob who had it prior," Seibel said. "For the theater district, one theater could be a viewing pub, with a show and dinner. I think El Sol would be appropriate."
Martinez said it was interesting what economic opportunities the change could bring.
The next presentation will be from Hidalgo Medical Services and the Center for Health Innovations, and the Grant County Community Health Council.