The Sabinal Community Center was completed in September. Construction of the building had many stops and starts due to funding.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

Nearly 20 years after its inception, the Sabinal Community Center was finally completed in September, in the middle of a pandemic when gatherings were not allowed.

With the distribution of vaccines and guidance around gatherings shifting, the county is looking for volunteers to manage the community center so the doors can finally open this summer.

The Ben and Sylvia Armijo — Sabinal Community Center is located at 753 Highway 116. The completed building has a 100 person capacity and includes two bathrooms, a commercial kitchen, a main room and a large porch. It is intended to provide a space for northern Socorro County residents to gather for all kinds of reasons, whether for community meetings, birthdays, wedding receptions, community education programs through UNM, NMSU or New Mexico Tech, art classes or even a farmers market or weekend diner.

Kenneth Armijo is recruiting five volunteers to manage the Sabinal Community Center. Armijo is hopeful that the enter will be able to open its doors this summer.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

Sabinal resident Kenneth Armijo is recruiting five volunteers from the area to serve as community center manager, legal and compliance manager, safety health and kitchen manager, records and bookkeeping manager, and event scheduler and media manager. The Socorro County Commissioners will need to approve the volunteers.

Anyone interested in volunteering can email a letter of interest and resume or experience to sabinalcommunitycenter@gmail. com.

The center was built with approximately $1.2 million in state funds, which included the cost of constructing a gravel road, Hummingbird Drive, so there is access to the property, said Armijo. The project took three phases and 14 years to construct.

There were many stops and starts due to funding.

The building sat incomplete for so many years, that the insulation was infested with mice and had to all be torn out before the project could continue, said Al Sandoval with B Enterprises, the contractor that completed the building in 2020.

Sandoval also lives in the community and believes the center will have a big impact.

“Now there’s a place for the northern Socorro County and its residents to gather,” he said.

Armijo has been involved in the project since its inception in 2002. That year northern Socorro County residents met to organize against and protest a proposed power plant that would have been built on alfalfa land, said Armijo. It was difficult to find a space to meet. Often community meetings were held outside, inspiring the idea for a community center.

Armijo said that over 200 people were involved in the protests and they even established a Northern Socorro County Neighborhood Association.

Although the neighborhood association eventually disbanded, the idea for a community center continued to move forward.

Many have been involved in the project, said Armijo, from members of the neighborhood association to state legislators who secured funding.

The county did not own land in the area, so someone willing to donate land had to be found. In 2007, Sylvia Armijo, Armijo’s mother, agreed to donate a little over three and a half acres to the county for the project. Armijo’s dad was originally from Sabinal and passed away in 2003.

The pair met at a dance in Bosque.

“She said, he would have wanted to have something like that up here,” Armijo said.

Armijo wishes his father could see the completed center. Sylvia Armijo just turned 95 and is excited for the center to open.

“She says, ‘I’m ready to go over there and do the first dance,’” said Armijo.

More information on the community center can be found on the Ben and Sylvia Armijo/Sabinal Community Center Facebook page

Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain