In the pages of Local Flavor, we’ve long celebrated chefs, artists and other luminaries who place Santa Fe squarely in the international spotlight. Now, in this two-part series, we celebrate the unsung heroes—volunteers who feed the homebound, teach literacy, work with troubled teens, maintain pristine mountain trails and even lead tours through the city’s crown jewel, La Fonda. We’re lucky to have these volunteers in our community who, through the act of freely giving, give the city its heart. This is our way of saying, Thank you.
I’m a meal driver for Kitchen Angels at least once a week. Along my personal route in the last couple of months, I’ve delivered anywhere from four to 11 meals per week. This kind of work is fundamentally who I am. I don’t think that it necessarily makes me better or worse than anyone else. This is my niche in the universe. It’s just something that I do and have always done. It’s such a rich opportunity—to help others. This might sound a little weird but when it comes to volunteering, for me, personally, it’s not even something that I consider rewarding. It’s just this thing that I do as an able-bodied, financially able person, and I would never not do it. I don’t do it because it’s rewarding. I do it because I was raised in a very service-oriented family. Ever since I could walk, I’ve been volunteering with my dad and mom. And while we weren’t religious, we volunteered with our church at soup kitchens as well as nursing homes, and walking the dogs at the shelter. I don’t really think about the effect that being of service might have. I just do it because it needs to be done. It’s such a rich opportunity to help others. It’s a fundamental need that I have and Kitchen Angels fills it for me.
The Santa Fe Fat Tire Society consists of a fun, hardworking and motivated group of people that was organized around the principle of preserving access to trails for mountain bike riders. When I first moved to Santa Fe, I’d meet members of the group at a trailhead and they welcomed me to join their ride. They are a very inclusive group and I felt I had a home. It’s been fun since day one! I started attending their meetings and discovered that they were as passionate about trail work as I was, and before I knew it, I was on the board. We pool our contributed volunteer hours to ensure the managers of our federal lands are aware of the type and amount of work we do on the trail system. On another level, I am striving to elevate an awareness within other recreational users that the trails we love need our help. In many cases, these trails are in desperate need of maintenance to remain enjoyable. If every user of our trails would donate a day to helping, it would make a huge difference.
I became a Santa Fe Teen Court volunteer in 10th grade and it was more for selfish reasons than anything else. I wanted to be a lawyer, so I thought I’d just show up and see what Teen Court is about. It’s an opportunity, and you get to be part of a community that really does transform people’s lives, and I think that’s a really cool experience. Teenagers come to Teen Court who’ve committed traffic violations or a crime involving drugs. We conduct a trial with prosecutors and a jury of peers who’ve gone through the Teen Court system themselves. A year ago, I started working with the president of the Assistance Dogs of the West, bringing dogs into the courthouse as a way for everyone to calm down and relax. It’s a valuable program because it’s brought a more human aspect to Teen Court. I see a lot of people become remorseful, so I think that bringing in a dog to court has brought that out. It’s also changed the attorneys’ demeanors. As a prosecuting attorney, I was cold and harsh and saw the person as an offender. But after being a handler and interacting with the family and the teen, my perspective shifted because there’s so much more going on than what we can see.
I look forward to my work for the Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe. I volunteer three days a week, but I’m also preparing for it, analyzing it and looking for new ideas to share with my students, including books to read, experiences to share with them, talking with them and hearing about their stories. The English as a Second Language people are so committed to their families and their work, and they’re also helping me with that. Each week, there are eight hours, plus preparation, which frankly, for me, is great fun, too, because I’m looking up things online and finding out about the countries the students come from, and the towns they come from, too. It’s my volunteer work that keeps me sane. I can tell you something very special that happened in my volunteer work with the Literacy Volunteers of Santa Fe this past March. One of my ESL students was voted the No. 1 ESL student in the state of New Mexico and there was an awards ceremony at the Roundhouse, where he and I were in attendance. He got a certificate and the staff of the Literacy Volunteers was there, too. It was really moving and it was really wonderful, and you can’t get that in a paying job.
I was taking a tour one day at La Fonda on the Plaza led by Ed Pulsifer, director of sales. I was thrilled with his presentation and my enthusiasm rubbed off on Ed. I got a call from La Fonda asking if I was interested in becoming a founding docent of the hotel. And I said I would love to, so that’s how the docent program started. When I saw the windows in 1962, painted by Ernest Martinez in 1954, they caught my attention. I was homesick for England and for some strange reason those windows in La Fonda made me feel better. There are so many things about La Fonda that are special, including its spectacular Native American-dominated art collection. To me, La Fonda is a shining star nurtured by its owners and an example of how you preserve historical integrity. I’m 81, and I feel that La Fonda broadens my outlook and keeps me vital. I learn so much. One of the best days for me was meeting Bruce Duval, the grandson of Maj. Robert Hunter Clarkson who was working for Fred Harvey at the Grand Canyon in the early 1920s and founded Indian Detours, headquartered in La Fonda. Bruce came to take a tour…my tour! That to me was an amazing experience, and he’s now part of the La Fonda team.
I so enjoyed visiting El Rancho de las Golondrinas for many years and events. After I retired from my nursing career, I had the time to volunteer and signed up. Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose. It gives many of our visitors information about colonization and the history of New Mexico. We offer programs for all of the school children each spring and fall, as well as many hands-on activities for adults and children. Like many volunteers, I enjoy continued learning and there are many lectures and training sessions offered for all of us. There is a well-equipped library at Las Golondrinas for our use. More seasoned volunteers and staff welcome our questions as well. The gift shop has a fine collection of books about the history of New Mexico available for sale. As I enjoy interacting with people, I take great joy in interacting with the visitors. Being at Las Golondrinas truly makes history come alive for our visitors. Hopefully, it gives them appreciation for their ancestors who survived amidst difficult circumstances. We recently had Spanish Colonial Days where the Santo Domingo Pueblo brought their Head Start classes. The children were so quiet, respectful and attentive. The teacher spoke to them in their native tongue. As they were waiting for their bus at the end of the trip, they all sat in a row at the stoop of one of the old houses. That sweet tableau is sealed in my memory, and yes, it did take my breath away.
Story by Lynn Cline