Above: Ralph Martinez (back, left) and a host of others assembled 30 care boxes and delivered them to families and seniors in need. Photo by Aaron Leon Lopez

If there’s something to hold onto amid this global health crisis, it is the amazing ways so many have responded. Communities are coming together to support one another—New Mexicans going above and beyond, helping the elderly, offering their space to COVID-19 patients, and providing comfort. Each week we want to say thanks and recognize a few of these efforts.   

Senior Care Box Crew 

Ralph Martinez got the idea to create care boxes for families in need when his friend, chef Fernando Ruiz, wanted to donate 300 pounds of meat from his restaurant at the Lodge at the Chama Land and Cattle Company. A community activist and organizer who founded the Española Community Matanza, Martinez found no shortage of folks willing to pitch in. With the help of Eric Quintana, owner of PMI Janitorial Services and Supplies, Roger Gonzales, acting CEO of Help New Mexico, and Jacob Romero, owner of Romero’s Fruit Stand, they soon had gathered enough to make 30 boxes. Each contained 10 pounds of meat, 5 gallons of beans, 10 pounds of potatoes, paper towels, toilet paper, gloves, cleaning supplies, and a case of water.  

But that was just the start. Las Cumbres Community Services and Ambercare helped deliver the care packages to 30 families and seniors in Rio Arriba County. Local nurses paired with team members to do wellness checks at the recipients’ homes. State Representative Joseph Sanchez served on one of the delivery teams, and Pojoaque Pueblo Governor Joseph Talachy donated 30 cases of water from the Buffalo Thunder Resort.   

“It feels really good to be able to offer any kind of help,” says Martinez, who was born and raised in Española. “It was humbling and happy and sad all at the same time. It put a smile on my face to see a smile on their face when they came to the door.”  

Vacancy for Those in Need  

El Rancho Hotel in Gallup has answered the call to action when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham asked owners to hold space for COVID-19 patients in preparation for a surge in new cases. The classic Western saloon style hotel, which was visited by the likes of Ronald Reagan and Katharine Hepburn in its heyday, plans to house patients in a building separate from the main hotel on historic Route 66 near the Arizona border. With space for about 20 people, the rooms will be available to individuals who may not have a home or those who cannot quarantine at home, says El Rancho Manager Teena Carney. 

“We’re working with the local hospitals and the Department of Health. They refer patients here,” says Carney. “These are people who have been tested, but don’t have their results back. They have to be quarantined, and they may not have a home to go to. We had a gentleman who had a pregnant wife and his 70-year-old grandmother at home, so he had nowhere else to go.”  

The hotel staff provides patients, who are fully quarantined, with daily meals. It’s a way to give back to the community that has supported the El Rancho for 80 years, Carney adds. “When we have the opportunity to step forward and help, it’s our job to do that and give back to the community. I think it’s really important that we do things locally. Every person should step forward and do what they can, especially now.” 

Providing Comfort  

Hospitals can be scary places, made even more so when a stay involves a highly contagious, life-threatening disease that requires isolation from friends and loved ones. During these most difficult of times, Mary Catherine Casey has been a rock for patients, family, and staff as chaplain at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho.  

Casey, who has been a chaplain for 20 years, stays at the hospital late into the night in the intensive care unit to ensure everyone who needs it has a spiritual guide, supportive shoulder, or friendly smile. “She has gone out of her way to make sure staff and families and patients are cared for and prayed for if that’s what they wish,” says the Rev. Bonnie E. Edwards, who nominated Casey. “She has been staying for the night shift to support the staff, going way beyond what’s required.”  

Edwards has worked with Casey for more than two years and continues to be amazed by her devotion. “We’re living through unprecedented times,” she says. “We’re here to help people with where they are and what they need—to be a calm presence throughout the chaos.”   

True Shout Outs 

We also want to say thanks to Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown for donating 20,000 meals to the Food Depot … to Andrea Warner, manager at the Silver City Farmers’ Market, for looking out for the safety of the market’s customers while supporting local farmers and vendors … to Doralei Davis and the Village at Alameda Assisted Living staff from Cristine Wolf for caring for her 96-year-old father and the other facility residents … to Lili G. Evans, cosmetology instructor/director at Central New Mexico Community College, for her positive attitude, encouragement, and support to her friends on Facebook during this time. 

Know someone who deserves to be recognized? Nominate them to be a New Mexico Magazine True Hero.