Volunteer opportunities abound

Volunteering can be a great way for people to give back to their community, and for students at Eastern New Mexico University, opportunities are not limited to their campus life.

One opportunity in the local area is the Portales Mainstreet Program. This program is dedicated to revitalizing the heart of downtown Portales, particularly around the square and Main Street, according to Executive Director Sandy Vigil, who said any of their volunteers have pitched in to decorate around the holidays, and some have even created some of the original mural style art pieces adorning buildings around Main Street, such as the cowboys on the old Bar G Western shop building and the Santa Fe train engine mural.

The Historic Yam Theatre hosts music events and small screenings of older films. Isaiah Pacheco, a local music artist and Portales resident, has performed at the Yam.

“It’s a really cool old building. It was once falling apart and in bad shape, but I think the MainStreet Program really turned it around. It’s nice having a volunteer program like this one, because places like this are historic to our city, and they are also great to perform in. It makes my shows feel a bit more personal.”

Another local opportunity to volunteer comes in the form of teaching high school freshmen how to manage finances through role playing.

United Way of Eastern New Mexico hosts Reality Check Day, which teaches freshmen how finances work in adult life by giving them family and career profiles (with a monthly income) to play out over the course of a full day.

“Students really respond to the program and get involved as they feel the stress and frustration of trying to make ends meet,” said United Way Executive Director Erinn Burch. “We've heard from teachers that it is one of the best experiential programs that they've ever had come to the schools. They hear students’ reactions to the pricing or the fact that without a receipt, they can't return something or how medical bills are getting in the way of paying the rent.”

Eastern in Action is an ENMU student initiative that gives students the opportunity to get active in their community. Making its start in the early 2000s, Eastern in Action became a large community event in which ENMU students gave back to the local community that support it.

“In my three years as an undergrad, I volunteered with Eastern in Action as a committee member, as well as director. The opportunity to work with the community and find service projects for students to complete enriched my experience at ENMU,” said Thalia Pantoja, an ENMU graduate and former lead planner of Eastern in Action.

Eastern in Action promotes the idea that students should be an active part of their community. After months of planning, students go out and assist local businesses with whatever they may need, sometimes up to 300 at a time, helping with tasks ranging from picking up garbage to removing weeds, according to Pantoja.

“It’s one day for the students to thank the residents and gives them a chance to just show up and volunteer,” she said. “And it really streamlines having to go out and look for those opportunities because the committee and the event facilitate it. I encourage students to give it a try. It is a very rewarding experience.”

United Way: http://www.volunteerenm.orgor 575-769-2103

Portales MainStreet: http://www.portalesmainstreet.orgor 575-760-0051

Eastern in Action: joseph.gergel@enmu.edu Eastern in Action Committee member

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ENMU Station 27

1500 S. Avenue K

Portales, NM 88130