Our Community: Volunteer Strong

November 20, 2016 raguirre


Great People. Worthy Causes.

The spirit of giving back is alive and well in Las Cruces.
Are you ready to join in?

Written by Charlotte Tallman
Photography by Ryan Steinmetz and Dawn Starostka

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Maria Ickler arrives at Munson Senior Center ready to quilt. She quilts for babies, for the homeless–she quilts for anyone in need of comfort. At 98-years-old, Maria quilts because she has the talent and the time. She also quilts because The Network Volunteer Center matches great people like her with worthy causes.


A total of 12 Network Volunteers make up the quilting group which donated 280 quilts last year to a variety of non-profits and organizations including La Casa, Mesilla Valley Hospice, Las Cruces Police Department, Gospel Rescue Mission, and Jardin de los Niños. Ryan Steinmetz, volunteer coordinator for The Network Volunteer Center, says the quilters are just a glimpse of the impact volunteers make in Las Cruces.

The Network Volunteer Center is a hub for City of Las Cruces sponsored programs, but Ryan is also able to connect volunteers to organizations outside the city purview through The Network Volunteer Center’s Volunteer Fair. If a would-be-volunteer doesn’t find what they are looking for within The Network, Ryan connects them with the multitude of other opportunities across the community. Ryan is well versed in the needs of local organizations and The Network works with more than 300 volunteers at any given time. The process is a simple one, and the first step is simply having a passion for others.

Volunteering is very strong in our community, and many people have a true passion for helping others,

says Ryan, who says the importance of volunteering was instilled in him from an early age. “People volunteer for many reasons, but many do it because it is a way to connect with the community and make a difference.

Once the desire is there to volunteer, the next steps are completing a volunteer application, attending an orientation, submitting to a background check, and selecting an area of interest. The process takes one to two weeks, and changes the way organizations offer services.

One of those organizations is the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC), which utilizes as many as 500 volunteers during events like the Renaissance ArtsFaire. “We literally couldn’t do all the things we do at the Doña Ana Arts Council without our volunteers. They are critical to all our operations,” says Katy Milligan, development coordinator.

To keep up with the demand, Ryan works with all ages, from high school students to retirees like Maria, his oldest volunteer. While each person has his/her own reasons for volunteering, many times younger volunteers do it to gain real life experience. Older volunteers are usually looking to avoid the isolation of retirement. No matter what the age, they connect with a lot of people they wouldn’t connect with otherwise.

I always try to help volunteers find their passion so they can thrive, and help others thrive as well,

says Ryan. “We get a lot of benefits from using volunteers, and we want them to benefit from volunteering as well.”

Ryan is already gearing up for his yearly Volunteer Fair to be held in March. It’s a chance for those interested in learning more to meet community organizations in need of volunteers. Between now and then, he is still available to connect volunteers with causes that matter. “How much volunteering there is in the community shows the health and the strength of the community,” he says. “When I see all the ways our volunteers are impacting our area, I know we are a healthy and strong community, full of passionate people.”


280 quilts made by the quiltinggroup donated to a variety of non-profits and organizations.

500+ volunteers the DAAC uses during events like the Renaissance ArtsFaire.

98 the age of Maria Ickler, the oldest volunteer in The Network.

Interested in volunteering?

These organizations need your help.

Mesilla Valley Community of Hope
As a community supported emergency shelter committed to providing a safe and secure environment for residents in need, Mesilla Valley Community of Hope recruits volunteers for many roles that help them meet basic needs. Those needs are especially important in the winter months when not having a warm bed could mean sleeping outside in the cold.

Volunteers can help at the front desk, in the community garden, on data entry, and in the donation room. Committees managed by volunteers work on scheduling and placement.

“Volunteers bring to our staff their work experiences and support. Committees are able to brainstorm and offer solutions to prospective situations and solutions,” says Waynette Bridges, volunteer coordinator.

Mesilla Valley Community of Hope has volunteers who report for a few hours a week, or month. At any given time they have more than 20 volunteers contributing to their mission.

Minimum Age: 18
Training Necessary: Yes
Times Available: Monday – Friday, 8:15am to 5:15pm.

Big Brothers Big Sisters
Mountain Region

Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers mentor community youth ages six to 16. Volunteers spend a minimum of four to six hours per month with a child, doing just about anything. They might go to the park, play games, bake a cake, watch a movie, attend a special event, work on a craft—whatever activity they both enjoy. The 160 current volunteers in the BBBS program are long-term volunteers; the organization requests at least a year commitment because it takes time for the relationship to develop.

Studies show the Littles (youth) with good long term Bigs (mentors) do better in school, have more confidence, develop higher aspirations, build better relationships with family and peers, and avoid risky behaviors. “Being there for a child makes a difference. The children in our program are missing ‘something’ in their life and our volunteers are there to help fill in that space,” says Dawn Starostka, regional director for Doña Ana/Grant Counties Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region.

Minimum Age: 18
Training Necessary: Yes
Times Available: Volunteers arrange their visits with the Littles at times that are convenient to them, to the Little, and to the family.

Doña Ana Arts Council
The Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC) uses volunteers on an ongoing basis in the Rio Grande Theatre as ushers and stagehands, with their summer educational programs, and in the office on a regular or as needed basis. They also welcome hundreds of volunteers during events like the Renaissance ArtsFaire in early November, the Las Cruces Arts Fair in mid-March, and the Community Arts Awards in early September.

Each of the events are developed by volunteers who make up committees that plan, set up, and run the events. The number of volunteers the DAAC uses varies depending on the event—they often use more than 500 volunteers for the Renaissance ArtsFaire, and 10-12 volunteers in the theatre per show.

Minimum Age: 16, unless with an adult
Training Necessary: No
Times Available: Varies; days, nights and weekends

La Casa, Inc.
La Casa, Inc. was founded in 1981 by a group of community volunteers, and the focus has remained community minded ever since. The organization has long provided safe housing and counseling for victims of domestic violence and their children. As the needs in the community grew, La Casa expanded its services to include non-resident counseling to victims, children’s services, case management, advocacy, civil legal services, community outreach and education, transitional housing, and a counseling program for court- and self-referred domestic violence offenders. La Casa also offers ESL, GED, literacy, and mentorship services for the families served.

La Casa has opportunities for volunteers in just about every position imaginable. Volunteers work sorting donated items; doing office work like data entry, filing, envelope stuffing, and answering phones; cleaning, both inside and outdoors; organizing activities; working with the kids; and undertaking community outreach and education.

Additionally, they have an all-volunteer board and fundraising group called the La Casa Guild. “Domestic violence affects the entire community and the best way to combat the problem is to engage and mobilize the community in an effort to eliminate domestic violence and abuse. Volunteers are important as they allow us to do things that we couldn’t do without their help,” says Ron Fitzherbert, who works with volunteers at La Casa.

The number of volunteers La Casa uses varies from week to week, but most of that variance is due to the number of volunteers available, not the work available. NMSU interns, practicum students, and students needing community service hours for classes are invited to gain job related experience by volunteering.

Minimum Age: 18 for most activities, but there are a few group activities that younger teens can be involved in.
Training Necessary: Orientation, some job-specific required.
Times Available: Primarily between 8:30am and 5:30pm weekdays; night and weekend opportunities also

El Caldito Soup Kitchen
El Caldito Soup Kitchen operates one of the largest volunteer groups in the community. With 150 core volunteers and additional occasional volunteers, El Caldito provides meals for the homeless and poverty-afflicted seven days a week.

The kitchen employs three part-time employees—a kitchen manager, a security guard, and a custodian—and relies on dedicated volunteers to perform all the tasks necessary in a kitchen to process and store food, prepare and serve meals, and clean up afterwards. Other volunteers gather food donated by the community and transport it to the soup kitchen.

Minimum Age: 18
Training Necessary: Yes
Times Available: Monday – Friday, 8:15am to 5:15pm.

280 Quilts made by the quiltinggroup donated to a variety of non-profits and

500+ Volunteers the DAAC uses during events like the Renaissance ArtsFaire

98 The age of Maria Ickler, the oldest volunteer in The Network 4


To get started making a difference contact:
Ryan Steinmetz
The Network Volunteer Center
Munson Center
975 S. Mesquite

The post Our Community: Volunteer Strong appeared first on Las Cruces Magazine.

Previous Article
Happy Home Perfect Turkey
Happy Home Perfect Turkey

BUY the right turkey The traditional turkey is the star... The post Happy Home Perfect Turkey appeared firs...

Next Article
Hecho en Las Cruces- Family Business (Part 2)
Hecho en Las Cruces- Family Business (Part 2)

Great Spirit Creations For a gift that’s truly New Mexican,... The post Hecho en Las Cruces- Family Busines...