Adorned in a Santa hat, Jane Sposito greets people coming into Puerto Seguro. She keeps track of who is there and why—do they want to grab a shower, a meal, clean clothes.
Puerto Seguro-Safe Harbor Inc has been serving people experiencing homelessness and poverty since 2001. Visitors can access laundry, case management, a phone and once a month, free haircuts. Sposito has been volunteering there for almost a decade.
“I really enjoy being here. I have seen so much, with everything that’s going on especially the last couple of years. It seems like all I do is tell people, get your mask up, get your mask up, get your mask on,” she said.
Then she paused the interview to tell someone walking down the hall to wear their mask. When COVID first hit last year, no one was allowed inside and food had to be delivered to visitors through the window.
What Sposito likes best about volunteering at the day shelter are the people.
“I truly enjoy being here. I live alone and it gets me out of the house. It’s been the best therapy for me to be with other people. To me this is a ministry that God’s given me,” she said.
She can relate to the challenge of struggling financially.
“I have never been homeless, but I’ve been in a place where ‘Where’s my kid’s next meal coming from? Where’s their snowsuits for winter coming from?’”
Puerto Seguro is dependent on donations and reliable volunteers—people who can help in the kitchen, at the front desk and giving out hygiene supplies.
Friends of the Library
The joy of volunteering also comes from interacting with the community for Friends of the Socorro Library treasurer Julie Johnson.
“If you want to see more of your community and people who enjoy books and getting out and interacting with people, I just find it the most wonderful activity and it’s kind of a general community,” she said.
Johnson started out with the Friends six years ago when someone talked her into serving as vice president.
“What I like about the Friends of the Library is they keep recirculating these old books. A lot of people think they’re just old books, but they’re treasures,” she said.
The Friends have more than 100 members, with about 20 active volunteers who sort or lift things and help out with details of book sales. The $3,000 to $7,000 the book sales bring in each year go to help the public library fund programs and activities.
The Friends also hold an annual talk that is open to the public, said another outstanding volunteer, Allan Sauter. Their latest project has been relocating to a new space—a labor intensive endeavor. With the boxes of books all moved, Sauter has been trying to find a good shelf space layout.
“I feel that books deserve a second chance, so that’s kind of what I like about it, is trying to get some more utility out of books and help the library,” he said.
Sorting through donated books can be an education unto itself, full of unexpected discoveries.
“If you have any interest in organizing there will always be something for you to do,” he said.
Up the interstate north of Socorro, Maureen Wilks has been teaching mindfulness to students at Midway Elementary School.
Wilks volunteers with SCOPE and 100 percent communities. She thinks the measure of society is how it is able to care for people who aren’t able to care for themselves, something she values in part because she has an older brother with Down syndrome.
For the 15 minute mindfulness practices, Wilks starts by listening to a bell and then encourages the students to move from mindful listening to mindful breathing. Then she covers a topic before closing with more mindful listening and breathing.
“Mindfulness is not about finding calm and relaxing. That’s the benefit of practicing it, but mindfulness is about being able to be with whatever is arising. Mindfulness is about teaching us what is arising in our body right at this moment and being able to be with. That’s what softens it. That’s what lets it go.”
Wilks has been teaching mindfulness to Midway and San Antonio students since September, and by the end of the semester they were able to sit a little longer in mindful breathing and find a little more calm. She’ll start going into Parkview in January.
Wilks has been “instrumental in our community with the mindfulness outreach in the schools, being involved in the 100 percent communities team, helping SCOPE make cards and pamphlets for mental health, assisting with the biking day, coming to events, and being willing to provide breathing exercises and mindfulness to not just SCOPE and the schools, but SCJJB as well. You have truly been an example for many community members and we love working with you,” said SCOPE Coordinator Samantha Winters via email.
Wilks is just as enthusiastic about volunteering with them and said it is a joy to work with organizers and volunteers who are doing the hard legwork.
“There’s just this energy around the people in SCOPE that you feel energized when participating. You feel like you can actually accomplish something,” said Wilks.