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A sold-out crowd that included a number of Las Cruces leaders was on hand Friday night, Nov. 15, as PFLAG-Las Cruces/Doña Ana Chapter honored several community members with awards for their service during the 24th annual fundraiser gala, “A Place for Us,” at the Ramada Palms Hotel.
PFLAG-Las Cruces awards presented were:
• Carrie Hamblen Award for LGBTQ leadership in the community: to Nicole Martinez, executive director of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) for her work with the displaced and homeless in Las Cruces. “I’m honored to receive this on behalf of the staff of MVCH,” Martinez said. “We value people.”
• Merlyn Risser Award presented to Families and Youth Inc., for their work with the My Friend's Place teen shelter and being a resource to LGBTQ youth who are homeless.
• PFLAG also awarded two scholarships during the dinner, to Ana Maria Gutierrez, an undergraduate social work student, and Jasmine Ontiveros, a graduate student in counseling education psychology, both at New Mexico State University.
“The work we do matters,” PLAG President Ryan Steinmetz said.
During a live auction of an apple pie made by former PFLAG-Las Cruces President Merlyn Risser, Las Cruces dentists Dr. Brian Gilbert and Dr. Phil Born each bid $500 to win the pie.
Among the 150 people attending the dinner were state Sen. Bill Soules and state Reps. Nathan Small and Micaela Lara Cadena, all D-Doña Ana; City Councilor Kasandra Gandara, Municipal Judge Joy Goldbaum, Doña Ana County Commissioner Shannon Reynolds and Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education member Maria Flores.
Steinmetz said the award PFLAG-Las Cruces received last month at the national PFLAG convention in honor of the local chapter’s work with LGBTQ+ asylum seekers has given PFLAG-Las Cruces “a national platform to talk about that issue.”
PFLAG is one of the United States’ first and largest organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies. PFLAG Las Cruces was co-founded in 1995 by Susan Brown and William Soules, who had family members who were LBGTQ. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit pflag.org and www.facebook.com/pflaglc.