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Group surprised with $7K grant

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By Mercy Lopez

Volunteers at El Valle Community Center in Villanueva got a special surprise on Monday afternoon from Betul Ozmat of the New Mexico Community Foundation.

In the entrance room into the old school house now turned community center, Ozmat presented Patricia Gallegos with an award and a $7,000 check for the facility. The center, located in the heart of Villanueva just off NM 3, is one of the 10 organizations across the state to receive the 2013 Chispa Award. Ozmat’s visit was a surprise to Gallegos and the other volunteers.

“I have to confess I am not here for a site visit…,” Ozmat told Gallegos. “I am here to give you an award.”

Ozmat proceeded to give Gallegos the Chispa award.

“Every year agencies are nominated from across the state for the Chispa award,” she said. “They are for agencies that do a lot with a little. And El Valle Community Center is one of this year’s recipients.”

She added, Chispa means spark and the Chispa awards are given to nonprofits that shine a light in the communities they serve.

“You do a lot of impact with not a lot of money,” Ozmat said. “You are one of 10 to receive this award, and the best part is here is $7,000.”

Gallegos screamed and volunteers Becky Salazar and Jim Ballard were elated with the news. Salazar and Ballard were pulled away from organizing hundreds of books in the library at the site of the Old Villanueva Elementary School to hear the announcement.

“Oh my god, that is wonderful …,” Gallegos said. “I am so excited.”

“That is so great,” added Volunteer Lana Gallegos.

The community center strives to create a wide range of services and opportunities for area residents. It provides a place for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, a place for people to gather for family events including funeral receptions and a place for children to create arts and crafts. The community center has a game room and a community kitchen. Patricia Gallegos said her group is also talking to Luna Community College about the possibility of offering classes at the site.

On Sunday, the facility is hosting its annual Turkey Bingo from 1 to 4 p.m. The bingo is a fundraiser for the center’s Los Niños Toy Drive and scholarship program.

The $7,000 award is an unrestricted grant for use in El Valle Community Center’s general operations. Due to the grant being announced by surprise, Patricia Gallegos said she does not know exactly how the money will be used, but she pledged that it will be put to  a wonderful use at the facility.