Kirsten Keller, SCOPE Community Member, and SCOPE Coordinator Samantha Winter load up a car full of sanitizer to donate to Magdalena during the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy of Samantha Winter

For the past two years, Samantha Winter has worked as the coordinator for SCOPE. She came to Socorro from Tennessee six years ago with her husband and their dog, cat and horses. After arriving in New Mexico, she worked with a veterinary clinic in Los Lunas. During the past two years, Winter has been very active with the community garden and getting different resources in Socorro county known to the community. She actively works with the Magdalena Wellness Program and writes grants for Magdalena to help improve their services.

What is SCOPE?

SCOPE is an acronym and it stands for Socorro County Options, Preventions and Education. We are a 501(c)(3) community health council. What that means is we are a community organization and we liaison between several different community organizations and community members to try and get them the resources they need and try to figure out who has what. We are basically a giant resource group. We also do a lot of hands-on stuff as well like the community garden, the Magdalena Wellness Program, we do the Maze of Life, we did the 5K. Our overall goal is the health and wellness of Socorro County.

How long has SCOPE been in the community?

They have been part of the community since 1989.

How did you get involved with SCOPE?

I do a lot with the farmers market. My husband and I are part-time farmers. At the time, I was working at a vet clinic in Los Lunas and one of the other farmers at the time, her husband is the president of SCOPE. Their coordinator left and they were looking for a new coordinator. I’ve always been involved with the health field, just in veterinary medicine, so I was like, ‘I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes.’ I applied for the job. I was interviewed and I was accepted. I started working and have been there ever since.

Why did you want to get involved?

I wanted to get involved to get more close-knit with the community. We moved here about six years ago from Tennessee. We’ve always been involved in the community back home and it was really great. We got into the farmers market here and it was like opening a door. All of a sudden, we were really starting to get to know the community and we fell in love with it. I was like, ‘I need more of this. I need to give back and get to know the community more and really help.’

What projects has SCOPE done in the City of Socorro?

In the city, we have started a community garden which is behind the teen center on Ake Ave. We started that last summer. We buy the t-shirts for the fun run. Last year we did a mental health day at Cottonwood. We also did the Maze of Life for all the school students. We did the falls prevention classes. We did Tai chi classes at the senior center. We’ve done a lot of the resource guides. We did a distribution of food resource guides and then mental health help. We have a food action team and their job was to set up emergency food distributions during COVID-19. We did the #JustTalk campaign. We work a lot with the other organizations to deliver lock boxes. We did a NARCAN training. We did the #JustTalk bracelets to state PD and all the high school students got some as well as Parkview. We do the drug disposal kits. We do a lot of resource liasoning. We did the hand sanitizer and face shield distribution with Tech… we did about 250 gallons of hand sanitizer and about 1,000 face shields. We are working with the Juvenile Justice board and the Middle Rio Grande Economic Development Association. We work with CYFD and DWI. We work New Mexico Tech ASAP quite a bit. We also work with Casa de Luz.

What projects have they done outside of the city limits?

We did a suicide prevention day over in Veguita with the help of the Valencia County Health Council. We did a joint suicide prevention day because one of the highest groups for rate of suicide is seniors and elderly. We do quite a bit in Magdalena with the Magdalena Wellness Program, face shield distributions, sanitizer distributions. We’ve been doing a lot of grant writing with the village up there to try to get them some different things as far as bike racks. We work with their transportation unit. We gave them $500 to help them purchase their bus… that was being retired so we were able to purchase that bus for the Magdalena transportation program. We do a lot of PSA’s and information distribution so more rack cards and social media posts. They do food distributions out there for COVID-19. We’ve also done quite a bit with the senior centers out there with senior packs and stuff like that.

What have been some of your favorite projects and why?

My favorite project is the community garden because I love gardening and working with the farmers market — being able to see the immediate results of that. A lot of the non-profit work, you won’t really see an impact in your community for about seven to 10 years. You won’t see a lot of immediate satisfaction. To very much see from dirt plot to garden has been pretty awesome. We were able to produce stuff this year and get it out to the Socorro Storehouse. We did some gardening classes. That was really enjoyable. My other favorite project is the Cottonwood mental health day that we did last year. That was really enjoyable because we had a showing of Sucide: the Ripple Effect. We partnered with the Juvenile Justice board and Socorro County Prevention Coalition to do a showing of the Ripple Effect at the Loma. We had given the kids, it was a free showing, but we gave them movie tickets and they got a kick out of that. We had a really awesome speaker come in from the Department of Health and she talked about social media and your health and how it affects the kids. We had goodie bags for the kids and we were tossing them prizes whenever they had an answer. The kids came super out of their shells and were getting super animated about it. We had a state police officer come and he did a good talk with them. It was a smaller group of kids so they were able to get super engaged and it was really fun.

How has the coronavirus impacted SCOPE?

Tremendously — it’s like night and day difference now. It’s so hard. Before COVID-19, we were able to get out there. We had a booth set up, it worked out to once a month or once every other month, depending on the time of year. Sometimes we had two or three in one month and then an off month. We were everywhere. We were at the DWI Pow Wow. We were at the Alamo parenting day, the Healthy Kids rodeo, the Police Appreciation Day for Tech. We were pretty much everywhere. We were able to distribute a lot of the information cards and resource cards to the community and general health info to the community. We could also hold the fun events like the Mental Health Day, Maze for Life, the Sucide Prevention Day. We could do a lot of these things that right now we can’t do. It’s all online, which is so hard especially in Socorro because half of the people here don’t have internet and of those who have internet, it’s not reliable. We’ve had to completely change our focus and how we do things. We do like QPR which is a training which is question, persuade, response. It’s a suicide prevention training basically teaching everyone how to ask the question. How to ask the question of, ‘are you suicidal.’ Trying to figure out how to do that safely in Zoom has been one small piece of our challenge. We had to change how we do the NARCAN training, how we do NARCAN distributions. A lot of our stuff has been, ‘how do we do this now?’ It’s been very challenging.

What has SCOPE been able to do since the pandemic started?

We’ve been doing a lot. We’ve done quite a bit of grant writing. We were able to get a couple of new grants. We were able to do a NARCAN training and distribution. We did the face shield and sanitizer distribution. We kept the community garden going. We just had to change how we did our work days — it’s a lot more one-on-one interaction and upkeep. We continue with the Magdalena Wellness Program. We have been working on the QPR and trying to figure out how to do that. We are looking at having one set up for February. We did the Stomp out the Stigma 5K. We revamped our rack cards and our mental health and food resource cards. We were able to get those out. With the Warrior and Wellness we did these bags and all the freshman got a fun little bag that had a lot of our resource cards in there. We did the #JustTalk campaign, which was new this year. We have done quite a bit of social media and online presence. We’ve tried to regear our goals for online. We did a small grant up in Magdalena for some of their students. We started a thank you committee. We started talking about it right before COVID-19. We started what we call “COVID-19 Heros Awards” so like Emmertech got some, the biology department at Tech got some. We had a kid who was 3D printing face shields and distributing them to hospitals so he got one. He’s a homeschooled high school kid so he was 3D printing the band and cutting the shields. We were able to do flowers to the nurses out there at the hospital.

How can others get involved with SCOPE?

You can definitely find us online either on our website or on our Facebook. Honestly, just sharing posts on Facebook is a huge help… one huge thing that we do is information distribution. We are all about telling community members what is available. We do a lot of different liasoning so we post a lot of that on our Facebook page. A simple share really helps to get the word out about anything going on in the community. We do have monthly meetings on the third Thursday of the month at noon. They run from noon to 1:30 p.m. and are being held via Zoom. You can find the link on our website and you can email us. Those meetings are welcome to anyone who wants to join. You can get a snapshot of what is going on that month and what areas might interest you. We also have the community garden. There is a community garden Facebook group that you can join to find a listing of what is going on. You can also just email me. My email is on the webpage and on Facebook. It’s [email protected]. I can either put you on our email listing and you can find out what projects we have going on or I could just tell you what we have going on.

What are you involved with outside of SCOPE?

Outside of SCOPE, I am involved with the farmers market. My husband is the president of the farmers market. We are little hobby farmers. We raise chickens and rabbits. We also have goats and horses and all that fun stuff. I also work for the Socorro County Prevention Coalition, which works quite a bit with SCOPE on the Drug Prevention Overdose Prevention Grant. I also have a lot of hobbies. We are big into rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding, photography and things like that.

You came here from Tennessee? What was that like?

It was interesting. It was fun though. My husband, we took turns all through school. I finished up my bachelors in animal science and then it was his turn to get his masters. He was getting his masters in explosive engineering. We were originally going to be going to Missouri. It was some random instance where we found out about Tech and we were like, ‘let’s go check it out.’ We came down here and we did a tour. It was a really nice little place. It felt like a nice niche for us. We have always been small-town people. We like that community aspect. Back in Tennessee, some friends of ours went in and we had about a 200 acre farm out there. We always wanted a place where we could have a little farm and everything like that. The options at Tech are amazing, as far as the handson experience. We weren’t going to get that elsewhere. At first, it was just going to be a one or two year stint… once we moved out here, it was awesome because we are so outdoorsy.

If you could change one thing about Socorro, what would it be and why?

Maybe some of the liasoning between Tech and the town as far as connecting community members and connecting students or professors. Honestly, especially with Sharon Sessions, a lot of that is happening. She is now our community liaison. She is really working on combining those. I think President Wells has done a really good job of addressing that. It’s definitely still something to work towards, but we are making headway on that… there are a lot of good people here who are willing to make change and who are willing to put in the effort. There are some things that would make life a lot easier like broadband, having a REI, things like that. The only thing I would really change is bring in more economy stimulus, as far as more jobs for the community. I think if we get a few more solid jobs here, I think we could see a huge change in the community.