Betul Ozmat

 

When a grandmother in northern New Mexico learned that she had been given custody of her four young grandchildren, she welcomed the opportunity with an open heart. But on her limited income, she was unable to purchase a bed for each child, as is required by state law.

Elsewhere, a young family was thriving until the father was paralyzed in a car accident. He could no longer work, and his wife reduced her work time to care for him, further jeopardizing the family’s financial stability.

And in another tragic twist of fate, a talented potter fell and broke both wrists. Though she had always supported herself through her art, she now struggled to pay her utilities and mortgage.

All are true stories of New Mexicans who found themselves in need of a good neighbor in times of crisis. Fortunately, they found one in New Mexico Community Foundation’s Vecino Neighbor Helping Neighbor Fund.

Thanks to the emergency funds at NMCF, these and hundreds of other lives were changed as each emergency crisis was averted. NMCF has made these kinds of emergency grants since 2001, and in 2012 alone made $270,264 in grants to help New Mexicans avoid dire circumstances and return to self-sufficiency.

For example, the Vecino Fund gives to New Mexico communities by quickly rallying community organizations and agencies statewide to help people in need. In the winter of 2011, when natural gas was shut off in northern New Mexico, threatening thousands of lives amid sub-zero temperatures, the Vecino Fund provided $17,000 in emergency aid—blankets, food and other necessities—to seniors, children and families. And when the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, impacted the watershed at the Santa Clara Pueblo, the Vecino Fund provided food for firefighters, as well as sandbags and other supplies needed for flood mitigation.

While NMCF does not give money directly to individuals, it does provide financial assistance to nonprofit agencies to purchase needed supplies and services that help the individual or families in need. In addition to the Vecino Fund, an anonymous donor has created a fund that allows NMCF to rapidly respond to crisis situations from partnering agencies that work directly with individuals and families who are in dire need of emergency assistance. Lastly, the Land of Enchantment Fund provides another way in which donors can contribute to NMCF and channel their philanthropic dollars to help New Mexico individuals and families avoid the crisis situations that can often lead to devastating consequences.

The Bodhi Fund, hosted at NMCF, is a fund dedicated to families who find themselves in a very special circumstance. Created by the Robinson Family, the Bodhi Fund is a collaborative partnership between the Robinson Family, Children’s Cancer Fund of New Mexico and the Pediatric Oncology Center of UNM Children’s Hospital. In 2003, four year-old Bodhi was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. After successful treatment at UNM Children’s Hospital, Bodhi was referred to out-of-state medical centers for bone marrow transplants, a difficult medical procedure unavailable in New Mexico. Today, Bodhi is an adventurous, irrepressible 12 year-old enjoying life.

Bodhi’s grandparents, Steve and Connie Robinson, recognized the severe financial and emotional impact for a family when having a child treated out of state. Because of this, they decided to create a fund to support New Mexico families whose children are in desperate need of distance cancer treatment. Since 2003, the Bodhi Fund has helped pay for the out-of-state travel expenses of many New Mexico families who would have had severe hardship just getting their child to cancer treatment.

One core value of NMCF is the belief that people and communities have a right to have a voice in their own outcomes, and in making the change needed to address systematic problems. Through its emergency grants, NMCF is able to help provide options to people experiencing a crisis so that they can control their own lives, do what is best for them and their families to weather an emergency, and emerge intact.

 

Betul Ozmat is director of Community Philanthropy at the NMCF.