Local Altrusa chapters honored

By Jean Verlich: CNJ news editor

Two local chapters of Altrusa International have been honored for making a difference in their communities.

The Clovis and Tucumcari chapters of the service organization are recognized in USA Weekend, which appears in today’s Clovis News Journal, for “good deeds” performed last Oct. 22 on Make A Difference Day.

The Clovis chapter collected food for the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico and provided children with specially made coloring books. The Tucumcari chapter renovated the Pioneer Senior Center Library at the Tucumcari Public Library.

According to Kathy Travis, president of the Clovis Altrusa chapter, more than 3,000 pounds of food was collected during the group’s annual Pumpkin Patch event. She said one of Altrusa’s missions is to promote literacy, and chapters were encouraged to have a literacy-based project for Make A Difference Day.

This is the second time the Clovis chapter has received an honorable mention for its Make A Difference Day event, Travis said, adding, “We’ve been participating for years.”

For 14 years, the Clovis Altrusa chapter has given donated pumpkins to people who contribute cans of food for the food bank. For the last two years, the event fell on Make A Difference Day, Travis said, so the Altrusa members combined it with a literacy promotion for children.

Last year, the coloring book, “The Pumpkin: A Wonderful Trade,” was written by group members and illustrated by Pastor Scott Blazek of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Travis described it as “a wonderful tale” about two youngsters who bring food to help people because “sometimes people need help,” she said.

The national recognition helps locally, Travis said. “We are really proud of the things that we do. Having other people see our name helps because our community becomes more aware of the things that we do,” she said. “We would like the support of the community. Without that we couldn’t do what we do.”

As a result of the Tucumcari Altrusa chapter’s efforts, the room at the Tucumcari Public Library now has new shelving, rugs, lamps and furniture to go along with nearly 1,000 books.

Linda Donwerth, the Altrusa literacy chair for Tucumcari, was also appreciative of the national recognition.

“It’s an honor because nationally, Tucumcari has been recognized. I would have never thought it would happen.”

As long as Donwerth can remember, the literacy committee of Altrusa has taken the responsibility of a project for Make a Difference Day, which encourages hands-on helping in what it describes as the nation’s largest day of service.

Donwerth said the community service committee was looking for a project, and members spoke with Clara Rey at city hall. Rey directed the members to the library, and the room met the criteria just right — helping out community members and doing so from a standpoint of literacy.

Glenda Reid, Tucumcari chapter president, said after the project was lined up, they were able to furnish the room through discounted merchandise from Jennings Furniture and a donation of 950 books from Dr. David Lazarus.

The Altrusa members cleaned the room, gave it a fresh coat of paint and filled it with its new books and furnishings. With less than $300 and some volunteer labor, the storage closet was nice enough that library staff now holds meetings in the room from time to time.

“It looked like a home instead of just a junk yard,” Reid said. “It was wonderful to stand back and look at the progress we had made.”

Kevin Wilson of Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico contributed to this report.