The Social Justice Committee will periodically feature local programs that we sponsor and that our members are involved in through financial or volunteer action.  Our goal is to promote these volunteer opportunities throughout the church and wider community.

Casa De Peregrinos  (House of the Pilgrims)

For over 35 years, this emergency food program has distributed fresh and canned foods to families in Las Cruces.  Located currently at 999 W. Amador, and part of the Community of Hope, approximately 150 families are served each Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9 AM to noon or 1-3 PM.  Families with children can receive food twice a month, those without children can pick up food monthly and homeless individuals can receive food weekly.

The program receives food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, individual food donations and, most recently, from participating local grocery stores like Walmart and Albertsons through a “food rescue program.”  Refrigerated trucks pick up meat, produce and canned goods that are nearing their expiration date so that the food can be quickly distributed for consumption.  On a typical visit, a family with children receives approximate 89 pounds of food! Financial contributions are used to purchase additional types of food for distribution.

Sara Armijo, volunteer coordinator and development director, was recently hired to strengthen the volunteer workforce and to help with fundraising efforts.  The organization is in need of a larger facility to increase food storage capacity, so plans are being developed to make this vision a reality!

Volunteers perform a variety of tasks at Casa de Peregrinos during the Monday, Wednesday, Friday hours of operation, such as interviewing clients, packaging produce or distributing food to individuals.  Casa de Peregrinos always welcomes new volunteers, but there is a special need for Wednesday volunteers and bilingual interviewers are especially needed. To volunteer, go to the Casa de Peregrinos website http://www.casadeperegrinos.org/form/14151 and complete the volunteer application.

Did you know that there is a “Casa Club” at our church?  Nancy A and Tom P have provided leadership to this group for over 15 years, and estimated that over 40 Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruces (UUCLC) members currently volunteer at Casa de Peregrinos!  Tom recently fulfilled his three year term as a member of the Board, and proudly claimes that UUCLC members are significant contributors, both financially and through volunteer service, to this worthy organization.  If you wish to donate to Casa de Peregrinos, you can drop a check in the Sunday basket (made out to Casa de Peregrinos) and Nancy will make sure your contribution gets to the program.  If you have any questions, please send an email to casa@uuchurchlc.org.

Mentoring at Conlee Elementary School

The mentoring program, which operates under the wing of the Social Justice Committee, began in 2012 when Tony Grenko, a social worker at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, asked members of the Unitarian Universalist Church to help mentor students at his school.  One of his concerns was the very low number of students who were attending college. The mentors began working with children who were recommended by their teachers and counselors as students who would benefit from sessions that went beyond the instruction of their classroom teachers. Each year the mentors plan an all day field trip to New Mexico State University, with the goal of encouraging students to consider higher education and helping them learn about college life.  Tours of the Art Department, the Museum at Kent Hall and at the University Theater are some of the destinations.  Taking part in a series of physical challenges at the Training Center and eating at the Corbett Center cafeteria are often the day’s highlights.

The mentors followed Tony to Conlee Elementary School three years ago and have experiential sessions with the kids, usually twice a month at the school. Recent examples of activities include: exploring maps and geography, taking photographs around the school and responding to the photos with poetry, learning about political advocacy, creating puppets and putting on skits for the pre-schoolers, exploring math and science concepts, learning about the city wastewater program, helping with holiday food drives, and helping to create a Haunted House.  Mentors also may take smaller number of students to various events in the community, such as science fairs, art explorations, and international events.

Volunteers are always needed and welcomed. There is no set time commitment; your interests and availability can be matched with many of the needs and activities of the program. All volunteers are required to complete a Volunteer Packet, which includes fingerprinting – a requirement for anyone visiting kids in the schools more than 5 times a year.

If you are interested in being a mentor at Conlee Elementary School or have questions about volunteering, please send an email to conlee@uuchurchlc.org.