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Progress Club of Las Cruces: Giving, growing, ‘living the volunteer spirit’


Talk about progress!

Despite the pandemic and the membership decline impacting many service clubs across the county, the Progress Club of Las Cruces has seen its active membership nearly quadruple in the past couple of years. Club members logged more than 40,000 in volunteer hours in 2021 and donated nearly $40,000 to programs benefitting local veterans, domestic violence programs, children and students, and women and families in need.

“We’re all working for that common goal – to help our community,” said club President Minel Schlaefli, who has been a member since 2013. “We’re a group of really strong women (who keep) the focus on what we have in common. Our diversity is amazing.”

Club members range in age from 32 to 89, Schlaefli said, and come from all educational and socio-economic backgrounds covering the entire political spectrum.

“I’m just so proud of the women we have in our organization,” said Debbie McAllen, a club member for the past eight years and past club president. McAllen is also the state president-elect of the General Federation of Women’s Progress Clubs of New Mexico. Las Cruces has the biggest and most active club in the state.

Community impact

In the past 18 months, the Progress Club of Las Cruces has helped 15 local veterans move out of Camp Hope Tent City at the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope into their own apartments. The club also donated a computer, printer and microwave oven to the veterans resource room at the Oak Street apartments in Las Cruces and acknowledged each veteran there with cakes and birthday gifts.

Club members funded scholarships to Doña Ana Community College and New Mexico State University, became a Proud Patron of Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, supported the local Children’s Reading Alliance and provided 835 science kits for students at Asombro Institute for Science Education in Las Cruces and other students around the state.

Club members participate in the annual Christ Child Society Layette Shower providing clothing and supplies for new mothers, donated $4,000 to My Friends Place youth shelter and supported the Doña Ana Arts Council’s Missoula Children’s Theatre and other children’s advocacy programs.

The club partnered with Ashley Furniture to purchase furniture for La Casa, Inc. domestic violence program’s intake room and to collect clothing, toys and other items for La Casa clients. It donated $3,500 to La Piñon sexual assault recovery services program.

Coming up

The club will sponsor a Sept. 17 fundraising golf tournament at Picacho Hills Country Club, with Ron Cavill and Associates as the major sponsor. Last year’s tournament raised $19,000.

Meetings, book club, socials

The club meets September-May at these regular gatherings:

  • Monthly meeting: 11 a.m. the second Friday of the month at the WIA building, 340 N. Reymond St. in downtown Las Cruces;
  • Book club: 11:30 a.m. the second Tuesday of the month at Hacienda de Mesilla, 1891 Avenida de Mesilla;
  • Socials: 5:30 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month at a different area restaurant.

Club history

The club celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2015 but got its start when the Women’s Improvement Association was formed in 1894 by five Las Cruces women who wanted to help provide services to the community the city was not providing, according to club records. At the time, the women were riding behind a coal wagon taking the body of a friend of theirs to a local cemetery. Their first goal was to buy a hearse for the community. That commitment to serve evolved into the Progress Club of Las Cruces’ mission of “living the volunteer spirit.”

Join the club

Membership is open to all women.

Dues are $40 a year.

To become a club member and/or to make a donation to the club, contact Belen Valenzuela at 575-496-4292 and belen8@yahoo.com.

Visit www.facebook.com/ProgressClubofLasCruces.

Progress Club of Las Cruces