LAS CRUCES – The Federation of Democratic Women in Las Cruces is organizing a food drive for My Friend’s Place, the only emergency youth shelter in Doña Ana County, to help pay for kitchen renovations.
My Friend’s Place is a program through the nonprofit Families and Youth, Inc. It has been open since February 2019, serving youth 12 to 17 in need of a safe place to stay. The shelter can accommodate up to 16 teens at a time for 90 days. During their stay, counselors address the reason for the teens’ homelessness and the program aids them in finding more-stable housing.
Once a quarter, the federation puts together a drive to support community organizations in the area, including Casa de Peregrinos. On Monday, Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the group will host a food and monetary drive in the parking lot of Pioneer Bank. The money collected will go toward overhauling the shelter’s kitchen to qualify for a commercial kitchen license.
Jolene Martinez, clinical director at FYI, said after the shelter was damaged in a fire in 2018 it was rebuilt as the building was before — however, building codes and requirements change. Currently, the kitchen is in need of a commercial stove and hood. Without these features, FYI is unable to prepare meals for the teenagers staying in the shelter. The total renovation costs $80,000; Monday’s drive will be the first fundraiser for the project.
“We run our facility like a home. And, like in our homes, I don’t eat out very often — maybe once or twice a week,” Martinez said. “So the commercial kitchen would allow for us to implement family-style dining; it would allow for us to prepare meals on-site.”
She added that the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the issue of meals because the kids are there all day, in need of snacks and three meals each day. To address this, the shelter partners with caterers to provide meals, but this does not allow kids to learn how to cook their own food or learn various life skills.
“When you’re talking about teenagers and food, they need that comfort knowing that there’s a hot, home-cooked meal. And that’s just a way for them to stay grounded,” said Debra Hathaway, vice president of the federation. “I think that’s why it’s so important that we get that kitchen in there and really allow them, the people who work there, to do a better job of serving the teens.”
Rosa Morales, a member of the federation, added that the organization’s interest in helping the youth shelter is long-term, and its members will continue to help get the shelter closer to their monetary goal. Other local organizations are also involved with the shelter, including Kiwanis Clubs and Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico.
People can donate to the shelter from 3 to 5 p.m. Jan. 18 at Pioneer Bank, 2900 Roadrunner Pkwy. Cash and checks will be accepted, as well as snack foods and beverages, paper goods, utensils and cleaning supplies.
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