Volunteer Bert Jimenez, left, and Community Volunteer Program leader Johnny Gonzales get ready to distribute gifts at Southeastern New Mexico Kidney Center, Friday. (Noah Vernau Photo)
The Johnny Gonzales Community Volunteer Program will hold its 25th annual Mother’s Day Food Basket Giveaway celebration on Sunday at 10 a.m., at the Roswell Boys & Girls Club, 201 S. Garden Ave. Free food baskets will be provided, as well as bread, nachos, donuts and refreshments.
The program seeks donations of flowers, candy, coffee cups, nonperishable food items and canned goods, and wants volunteers who can offer their time for home deliveries and other activities.
“We give this from our heart to the people,” Gonzales said. “It’s nothing big, you know, but my heart’s in it. We’re going to be doing a lot of home deliveries to a lot of seniors and shut-ins, and reach those who don’t have anything.”
Gonzales and volunteers Bert Jimenez and Larry Myers started the giveaway on Friday by providing about 75 kidney dialysis patients with Mother’s Day gifts at the Southeastern New Mexico Kidney Center, and will return to the center today to deliver another batch of gifts.
Gonzales received a kidney transplant last year, after undergoing dialysis treatment three times a week for about five years. Gonzales said the experience inspires him to return to the center as often as he can.
“I know the depression, the hopelessness they go through,” he said. “There’s not really a lot of kidneys available out there. You’re stuck in there, you don’t see your children. You’re tired all the time. There’s really no future, especially if you’re 70 or 60 years old. They’re probably not going to give you a kidney.
“And if you have any kind of problem medically, they’re not going to give you a kidney. So the depression, the hopelessness in this place is far beyond what anybody in the streets would know.”
Gonzales said a lot of the friends he made at the center while undergoing treatment are no longer living.
“I’m one of the sole survivors,” he said. “And I told the Lord I’m going to come here and I’m going to do this. I’m going to do it. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, weekends, we’ll bring food, blankets, all kinds of stuff.
“When they see me walking in healthy, they see that there’s still hope. That there’s still a future, despite what they’re going through, despite what the doctor says or what the body says, despite everything.
“It’s not so much the disease that hurts them. It’s the lack of fellowship. I say if there’s anybody out there in such a dilemma, they need to reach out. Don’t look toward their sickness to be their guide, but look to themselves that they can lead somebody else and help.”
For more information about the giveaway or volunteering, contact the Community Volunteer Program at 624-7579.