Susie Russell, of the Community Foundation, is showered with hugs from kids at the Roswell Boys & Girls Club after the club received a 2012 Chispa Award, Thursday. Mark Wilson Photo
Roswell Boys & Girls Club and Down Syndrome Foundation each received a $7,000 grant Thursday from New Mexico Community Foundation, which recognized the local nonprofits for accomplishing so much with so little. The Roswell organizations were two of just 12 organizations across New Mexico to receive NMCF’s first-ever Chispa Awards.
Ben J. Lewinger, director of communications and collaborative partnerships for NMCF, said the Chispa Awards will be given to nonprofits annually. He added that “chispa” means “spark,” and that each of Thursday’s recipients “shine a light in the community.”
The nominations were made by community leaders throughout the state such as Susie Russell, and final decisions were made by a volunteer selection committee. None of the Chispa recipients knew their organization had been selected until they were presented with the award Thursday.
“I’m just completely blown away,” Down Syndrome Foundation executive director Missy Holman said. “It’s such an amazing surprise, and it’s going to make a huge difference.”
Holman said the yearly budget for DSF is $55,000, and that any grant that helps to cover operating costs is significant. “Operating-wise, it will pay rent and salaries and air conditioning, and just all kinds of things so we can keep doing everything we’re doing.
“It’s just an honor. We’ve been very diligent and persistent to keep going and keep going, even when sometimes it seemed very difficult. I guess this just goes to show that with persistence and belief, the world does notice.”
Russell said that DSF, which was founded in 2007, has been making great strides “to bring awareness about down syndrome to families that don’t have resources otherwise,” and to schools, which “really need the expertise of this organization.”
Boys & Girls Club executive director Art Garcia said the grant will help his organization keep its doors open. “It helps us give them the supplies and equipment that’s needed to help these kids prosper in life and school, the classroom, at home.
“[The grant] just means we’re doing the right things, and that the Lord is seeing our work here. It’s an answered prayer.”
Russell said she knows Boys & Girls Club is struggling day-to-day just to pay its bills, and that Garcia and staff have made it all work despite limited resources, overcoming every challenge. She said that more than anything, Boys & Girls Club and Down Syndrome Foundation exemplify a passion for service.
“Without their work, there would be so much more need,” she said. “This [grant] is very important to both of these organizations, and I’m just thrilled that the New Mexico Community Foundation is providing them with these funds. They’ll go a long way.”