CHIMAYO (BNM) - Members of White Rock Baptist Church, Los Alamos, completed maintenance and landscaping projects during an Oct. 12 volunteer workday at Barrios Unidos, a drop-in drug and alcohol rehabilitation center serving Chimayo, Espanola and surrounding communities.
Between 30 and 40 adults, and approximately 15 children and students volunteered during the workday, according to White Rock’s volunteer missions leader, Katrina Koehler.
In a phone interview with the Baptist New Mexican, Koehler said that adult volunteers repaired a chimney, re-shingled part of a roof, dug out a clogged drainage ditch and sorted clothing donations.
The church’s younger volunteers added painted rocks to include on four gravesites on the Barrios Unidos campus. According to Koehler, the gravesites are more than one hundred years old. “We decided that with these very colorful, pretty rocks, we would make those graves a little more prominent and pretty and clear out that area and kind of give respects there,” she said.
White Rock first became involved with Barrios Unidos during a separate outreach event at Espanola’s Walmart. During the event, church leaders met with Barrios Unidos founder and executive director, Lupe Salazar, who shared the organization’s specific needs. The Oct. 12 workday was the church’s second time volunteering at the center.
According to Koehler, Salazar founded Barrios Unidos following an experience her family had while her son was in a separate rehabilitation facility for drug addiction. “The rehab facility that he was going through was not addressing any of the systemic issues or giving support to her and her family. And she realized there was a real need for the whole family to be addressed,” Koehler said. Because of her son’s experience, Salazar earned a degree in social work and started Barrios Unidos, Koehler explained. Barrios Unidos is Spanish for “united neighborhood.”
“The idea there is to help the community heal - to address not only the person with the drug addiction but that person’s family and the whole community, and help the community heal,” Koehler said.
Barrios Unidos offers several services to families and individuals affected by drug and alcohol addiction. According to Koehler, services include Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, peer support groups, food assistance, and support groups for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.
Koehler told BNM that the church’s partnership with Barrios Unidos helps leverage “existing connections” from White Rock’s music events ministry, Infinity Squares.
When asked if she had any advice for churches seeking to partner with local organizations, Koehler said, “I think it’s very important to find a ministry that your congregation connects with. I’ve been doing missions now for a number of years, and there have been things that I have tried to do that have been like pulling teeth, and this one has not been like that. Once I started talking about Barrios Unidos, I didn’t have to ask for volunteers, it just happened. That’s because it connected with what the body already wanted to do, and what individuals already felt called to do. I wasn’t trying to force a square peg into a round hole. I think that’s very important. Different churches are equipped to do different kinds of ministry.”
White Rock plans to participate in another workday next spring.