Albuquerque, NM – The holiday season is a time when people from many faiths and backgrounds reach out to others. Followers of Christ seek to both celebrate his birth and emulate his selflessness. Throughout the city of Albuquerque and its neighboring regions, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in particular, have participated in a variety of events, from musical concerts to nativity displays which involved the general community.
Two such events occurred on Saturday, December 15, one in Albuquerque and the other in the nearby city of Rio Rancho. The first was a Christmas party and dinner held at the First Congregational United Church of Christ for Crossroads for Women, a nonprofit organization that helps women emerging from incarceration transition into community life. The second was a Christmas Gift Store, sponsored by the Rio Rancho Public Schools and three different churches, that enabled certain families to choose gifts for their children. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assisted with both events.
Crossroads helps women coming out of incarceration so they can enjoy productive and fulfilling lives in the community. The motto, “Breaking Cycles / Building Lives,” can be seen in action as the organization provides homes and therapeutic services for the women.
Dalilah Naranjo, Community Engagement Coordinator for Crossroads, was in charge of the party and dinner for the women as well as their families. She needed much help to feed and provide gifts for well over a hundred people. Susan Reese, Director of Public Affairs for the Albuquerque East Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, agreed to assist.
With the help of many members of her faith, Reese provided a ham dinner during the party as well as crafts for the children. Steve Komadina donated funds for the meal, a group of women helped prepare and serve the meal, Ron and Susan Kirkpatrick transported hundreds of gifts from Crossroads to the venue, and LDS missionaries assisted with loading, offloading, set up, decorations, serving the meal, crafts, and handing out gifts.
Reese explained, “I had so many of our wonderful guests thank me in ways I have never been thanked before. They mentioned that they weren’t usually treated so nicely or respectfully. They were so grateful for great food, kindness, and fun. It was very heartwarming.” She added, “I truly felt that volunteers at this event served as Christ would have us serve. We served the women and children who needed to feel love and kindness and everyone there truly gave that!”
The same day of this event, in the neighboring city of Rio Rancho, other members of the community worked together to provide holiday gifts for children in the school district and their families. Rio Rancho Public Schools along with three churches (the Church of Christ, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) sponsored the 2018 Rio Rancho Schools Christmas Gift Store.
This is the third year the Rio Rancho School District has offered the Christmas Store. School counselors identified families in need, and these families were invited to the store. Churches donated the gifts, and then district and church volunteers gathered the gifts and set them up for the families. Parents could select two to three gifts per child, depending on the number of gifts available and the number of families identified by the school district.
Casey Skousen and his wife Mary Skousen, Directors of Public Affairs for the Rio Rancho Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, estimate that members of their church donated about 400 gifts. The Church also provided 27 volunteers on Friday to set up and 52 volunteers on Saturday, the day of the event, including full-time missionaries.
Skousen said that the efforts of fellow church members “were instrumental in blessing the lives of many of our neighbors in Rio Rancho.” He explained further, “All our volunteers were very kind and supportive to guests and were more than ready to accept any assignment given. Their kindness was a credit to the Church.”
These two events were only a fraction of the efforts made throughout Albuquerque and surrounding areas. Many people from different backgrounds and circumstances reached out to serve others in the community and celebrate the holiday season. For those who follow Jesus Christ, it was an opportunity to acknowledge his birth and to be more like him in word and deed.