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Mano y Mano program back to full strength


With participants wearing facemasks and maintaining social distance, the City of Las Cruces Mano y Mano day-labor program has returned to full strength, as Las Crucens who are struggling with homelessness and near homelessness assist the city Parks and Recreation Department with local cleanup and beautification.

The program began in March 2018 and had expanded to two crews of 10 people each, but then cut back to five-member crews after the onset of COVID-19, said city Parks Director Franco Granillo and Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) Executive Director Nicole Martinez. The program has returned to full strength with safety measures in place, Granillo and Martinez said.

“The Mano y Mano program means a lot to me,” said Carl Mead, who was a participant in the program before being hired by the city as a Mano y Mano supervisor. “Four times I would not have been able to pay my electricity bill. And at least twice I would not have been able to pay my rent. And it is because of this program that I now have full-time employment as a Mano y Mano supervisor.”

“In a time of economic uncertainty, Mano y Mano has provided an opportunity to those who are familiar with hard work to make ends meet,” Martinez said. “We are grateful that Mano y Mano provides consistent work, beautifies our community and connects people with services to help prevent and end homelessness.” MVCH includes Camp Hope tent city.

The Mano y Mano crews work throughout the city picking up trash, dealing with erosion issues, beautifying city trails and doing other work, Granillo said. Earlier in the COVID pandemic, when city Parks and Rec crews were not at strength, Mano y Mano participants also did a lot of weed pulling, Granillo said.

“If it wasn’t for Mano y Mano, we would have been behind quite a bit,” he said. Granillo said he hopes to expand learning opportunities for participants as the program continues to expand.

“They’ve done a very good job,” Granillo said.

Mano y Mano laborers have been wearing facemasks donated by Hanes. The company has donated one million facemasks to nonprofits across the country. Visit www.hanessockdrive.com.

Here are quotes from four Mano y Mano program participants:

Andrew: “Mano y Mano is a lifeline. It helps with whatever I needed that week: shoes, phone cards, clothing.”

Todd: “The program is awesome. It’s helped me buy a bicycle lock, food, birth certificate and state ID.”

Anonymous: “It helps with bills when [Social Security] isn’t enough. It helps bridge the gap.”

Augie: “It’s helped me with everything. It’s good to have money in the pocket, and it takes away that yucky feeling of doing nothing all day.”

For more information, contact Martinez at 575-523-2219, extension 114, and hope@zianet.com. Visit www.mvcommunityofhope.org. MVCH’s new mailing address is P.O. Box 16526, Las Cruces, N.M. 88004. 

Tents to Rents campaign continues online

Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) moved its largest fundraising event of the season, Tents to Rents, entirely online. The campaign began Aug. 14 and will continue through Wednesday, Sept. 30, at tentstorents.org.

With the Tents to Rents program, local businesses, organizations, churches, schools and individuals work together to raise funds for MVCH’s Camp Hope tent city to help residents who are struggling with homelessness to move into their own apartments.

This year, with Camp Hope closed to visitors because of COVID-19, the pizza party which kicked off last year’s event was cancelled and the closing thank-you reception at Salud! de Mesilla that would have taken place in October also was cancelled. 

That means Tents to Rents participants are relying heavily on email, Facebook, Instagram and other social-media platforms to raise funds in 2020.

MVCH Executive Director Nicole Martinez came up with the idea for Tents to Rents in 2016. That year, with 10 participants and four sponsors, it raised more than $13,000. In 2017, fundraising reached more than $28,000. In 2018, more than $53,000 was raised. In 2019, 16 participants and 14 sponsors raised almost $52,000.

For more information, to participate or to donate, visit tentstorents.org

City of Las Cruces Mano y Mano