Estancia Valley Hands of Hope is a community driven organization that comes together to help families who are struggling every Christmas, said Hands of Hope Secretary Tanya Pearcy.

“A lot of people are struggling out here, some that are struggling through their own fault, through things of their own, but there’s many that are on hard times, and that’s what we’re into,” she said. “More of offering a hand up, instead of a handout. We try to help people get on their feet.”

Hands of Hope President Teri Morgan said families are chosen through a nomination process.

“We do the whole Estancia Valley, all the way to Willard, Mountainair, Stanley, Cedar Crest, Tijeras,” she said. “We will accept families from any area, and they’re nominated, and they go through a nomination committee, and that’s where we interview them to make sure [they need help]. We try not to help the same people every year.”

Pearcy said every Christmas Hands of Hope chooses around 20 to 25 families to sponsor. This means getting Christmas lists for the kids, buying toiletries and house stuff for parents, and sending them with all the fixings to make a Christmas dinner at home.

“We found out through the midst of doing this that the parents, we used to buy mom and dad like one thing, it’s about the kids, but we would buy mom and dad something,” she said. “Then we started learning that the mom and dad, instead of getting presents, they would rather get home stuff, detergent, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste—stuff that costs money that you don’t really think about.”

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In addition to that, Pearcy said, Hands of Hope would also rent out the Moriarty Civic Center and hold a dinner they call “Starlit Night: Bringing Light into the Darkness,” which included pictures with Santa, face painting, and cookie decorating.

Morgan said the kids are so happy when they come to the dinner and see everything that’s in store for them there. “We give them a reason to dress up and go out, which is something you don’t have when you don’t have money,” she said. “You don’t get out. We invite them out, we entertain them, we have stuff for the kids to do, and we all eat dinner, and we all have choirs that come, we have dance schools that come and perform for us, we had a choir of bells one year. It’s amazing seeing them with their families, being happy. We want to offer hope to our community and it’s so easy at Christmas time.”

Morgan said they even had a convoy from Edgewood to Moriarty last year to help fundraise that was a huge success.

“We run from Edgewood at Tractor Supply to Moriarty at Sierra Blanca Brewery, and we run at dusk, and our object is to light up the darkness with lightning and thunder. Everyone puts lights on their cars, they tow trailers with UTVs and stuff on them, and we had hot rods, we had motorcycles, and family cars. It’s something for everyone. We charged $10 per vehicle to participate, and at Sierra Blanca, we feed them pizza. Then we have an auction, a raffle, and there’s music, it’s just really a fun time.”

But this year looks very different because of Covid, Pearcy said. Instead of a large event, the parents will take home the gifts with all the essentials to wrap the gifts themselves, she said, and Santa will still be involved, although she’s not sure how just yet. She also said the families will still get a box of food to take home. The group held an online auction to raise money.

Both Pearcy and Morgan said they would eventually like to expand to do more throughout the entire year.

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“It would be so nice to not even have to try and get donations. It would be awesome if we were set every year,” Pearcy said. “I would love, I’m hoping to be able to do stuff throughout the whole year, to do maybe like once a month, to be able to sponsor a teacher. Once a month have the schools nominate their favorite teacher and the favorite teacher wins like $400 or something to buy their own stuff.”

Morgan also said she would love to see more people volunteering with the organization.

“It helps you in so many ways to volunteer, especially if you have issues in your own life,” she said. “When you’re sitting at home and just focusing on your issues, they are very overwhelming. Buy when you participate with a non-profit and you see the problems that people have, it makes your problems not so large, and you start looking at it like, ‘okay, maybe I don’t have it so bad.’ It’s uplifting to the volunteers; it’s uplifting to the people we help.”

She also said she would like to see Hands of Hope opening up a thrift store so the organization can have a steadier stream of income, which could lead to helping a larger number of families.

Pearcy said what motivates her to volunteer for the organization seeing other families not have support they need through tough times.

“There’s just a lot of people struggling, and I have kids, and my kids don’t want for anything, they never have, even though I struggle, and my family has struggled,” she said. “We always make it happen, and I’m fortunate that we have … My ex-husband and his family have always been there behind us. We’ve never really struggled for that type of thing. If we ever needed help, which we have, we’re just like everybody else, we have family to fall back on. But there’s a lot out here, there’s a lot of kids that are suffering, that are having a really hard time and it’s not their fault. That’s my thing, is I can’t imagine.”

Pearcy said there are a few ways to get in contact with the organization if someone wants to donate time or resources.

“Teri is our president, so she’s our main contact, but any of us, we’re on Facebook,” she said. “We don’t have a website, but we’re on Facebook and we have an email, evhandsofhope@gmail.com, so people can email us. They can call us directly. Teri’s number is the one listed on our Facebook page.”

Morgan said that events like Starlit Night are what she thinks can bring out the best in people.

“I’ve always said I like living out in this area because you run into people you know at the grocery store, and with Starlit Night, you find the part of people that they don’t ever show anybody,” she said. “Their goodness, the spirit of Christmas, I don’t know what you want to call it, but it’s amazing because these people in this community really give.”