Successful Donation Drive Benefits Those Affected by Wildfires

© Western New Mexico University

On Wednesday, June 26, a fleet of four trucks and a large passenger van made their way from the Western New Mexico University campus to Ruidoso and the Mescalero Apache Reservation to deliver donations to benefit those affected by the South Fork and Salt Fires.

The donations were the result of a partnership with a number of area agencies and individuals, including Freeport-McMoRan, Walmart, Albertson’s, the Food Basket, the Commons Center for Food Security and Sustainability, the Silver City Gospel Mission, the families of the WNMU Early Childhood Center and the 24 Club. In addition to corporate and agency gifts, numerous Grant County individuals donated items that included nonperishable food, water, sports drinks, clothes, pet items, toiletries, and hygiene products.

The South Fork and Salt Fires were first spotted on June 17 on Mescalero Apache land. As the fires approached Ruidoso, Ruidoso Downs and other population centers, approximately 8,000 people were evacuated from the area. The two fires have burned over 25,000 acres and destroyed an estimated 1,400 structures. Two people were killed by the fires.

The donations collected by WNMU and its partners were targeted toward three populations: Ruidoso, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, and wildland firefighters. Water was delivered to all three, and the deliveries to Ruidoso and the reservation contained mostly food, toiletries, and hygiene items, while the delivery in support of firefighters contained more items specific to them, such as sports drinks, snacks, and comfort items like lip balm.

Kacie Peterson, who is president of the 24 Club, a nonprofit women’s service organization in Grant County, said that the members of the club were motivated to provide essential relief to the wildfire-affected communities in Ruidoso and the Mescalero Apache Tribal lands. “Thanks to generous donations of non-perishable food, clothing, toiletries, cleaning supplies, diapers, formula, and first aid items, we made a significant impact,” she said. “Monetary contributions were directed to the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, totaling over $1,800.”

According to Peterson, before the WNMU-coordinated drive began, the 24 Club “supported a displaced family refuging in Grant County and sent a carload of canned goods and cleaning supplies to Roswell shelters for evacuees.” The club continued to collect items which were then added to the drive coordinated by WNMU.

On Tuesday, approximately twenty staff members and students gathered at the WNMU mailroom to sort the donations and load them for delivery to Lincoln County.

One of those volunteers, Kimberly Woodard, who is the WNMU Student Services Coordinator and helped to coordinate the donation drive, said she was grateful for the local businesses and community members that contributed. “As we witness the devastating impact of the recent fires in the Ruidoso area, it becomes evident that our collective efforts can make a significant difference in alleviating the suffering of the affected families,” she said.

Woodard added, “Food drives bring communities together. When we stand united, we show our commitment to supporting one another during challenging times, but it is not only about helping to provide basic necessities; it’s about compassion, resilience, and community. … Every donation matters, and together, we can make a meaningful difference.”

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