Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Around Town

PHOTOCREDIT: —Courtesy of Abrazos Family Services
Abrazos Developmental Specialist Marilyn Haynes works on fine motor skills with a young child

Abrazos Family Services offers a helping hand—year round

—Margaret M. Nava

The mission of Abrazos Family Support Services in Bernalillo is to support children and adults with developmental delays or developmental disabilities through family-centered services such as the Family Infant Toddler Programs, Early Intervention and Respite Services. Focused on improving the quality of life for as many as five hundred Sandoval and Bernalillo County families and individuals, these programs and services, the majority of which are free, include an array of specialized educational, therapeutic and developmental programs; parent and caregiver support services; and group activities that help families meet the special needs of their infants, children, and adult family members. As a federally recognized 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, Abrazos receives funding for children’s services from the United Way of Central New Mexico, but most of their support comes from fund raising events, corporate sponsors, and private donations.

Throughout the year, Abrazos conducts public presentations and organizes fund raising events to generate money and raise awareness about the importance of the services they perform. On October 21, they hosted a Benefit Golf Tournament at the Santa Ana Golf Club to benefit its respite care services program. Respite care is an important family support service that provides care for persons with disabilities so the family members can take a break from the intensity of providing full-time care for a disabled child. Additionally, respite care provides disabled individuals with the opportunity to build new relationships and move towards independence. On November 19, a benefit dinner reception, featuring the award-winning cuisine of Chef Darren McHale and wines selected by Sommelier Samuel McCall, was held at the Prairie Star Restaurant in Bernalillo. Proceeds from that event will benefit the Infant Toddler and Early Intervention programs that include Developmental Screening and Assessments that help a family learn more about their child’s development; Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Evaluations; Specialized Therapy Services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, feeding therapy, infant massage; Home Visiting and Developmental Play Groups; and Medicaid Application Assistance.

Longtime corporate sponsors include U.S. New Mexico Federal Credit Union, Johnson & Johnson, Presbyterian Health Care Services, and Creative Therapy Services of Rio Rancho. These corporations, and others like them, are pivotal to Abrazos’ success.

According to Jeffrey Hoehn, Development Director, “91 percent of each donation dollar goes directly to pay for services to children and adults enrolled in Abrazos’ programs. $35.00 supports one child and parent in the developmental play group; $50.00 supports one child in our Infant-Toddler Music and Movement Group; Seventy-five dollars supports three hours of a structured recreational activity for one child with Autism; $100.00 supports one hour of individualized therapy from a licensed therapist (OT, PT, SLP); $120.00 supports one day of respite care for a child or adult with a developmental disability; and a $250-$500 donation supports purchase of specialized therapeutic equipment for children.”

Unfortunately, in these difficult economic times, donations are down, and the United Way has had to cut back on its funding. “Everyone is feeling the pinch,” says Hoehn, “especially nonprofit groups like ours that serve a large diverse population in Sandoval County.”

The mother of one of the children benefiting from Abrazos’ services recently said, “We were new parents with many gaps in our parenting, especially as we were parenting a special needs child. What Abrazos offered was a true professionalism and dedication to our individual needs. A plan was put into place, and with regular reassessments, the plan was altered to meet Lucas’ changing needs. Abrazos has opened so many doors for our family. Our son was introduced to professionals with passion, to programs with proven success rates, and to practices that helped him navigate his world, and we were introduced to other families in similar situations, which truly comforted us. We were constantly reminded that we were never in this alone. For this support, we are eternally grateful.”

Jeffrey echoes the mother’s gratitude. “We at Abrazos Family Support Services very much appreciate, and are thankful for all the support we receive from our corporate sponsors and, especially, from all our individual supporters. These donations help us provide specialized services that are crucial for children and adults who have disabilities and special health care needs. To them and all who may be considering a donation, thank you very much for your generous gifts.”

To learn more about future events and making donations, contact Jeffrey Hoehn at 867-3396 or log on to

BPS settles with fired superintendent, hires a new one

Signpost staff

The Albuquerque Journal reported on November 19, that the Bernalillo Public School Board named Allan Tapia as superintendent. Tapia has served as interim superintendent since former Superintendent Ralph Friedly was placed on administrative leave in May. He was awarded a contract through June 30, 2013, and will be paid $106,000. The board voted 4-0 in favor of Tapia, with member Nancy Walker abstaining from the vote. Before being named the interim superintendent in May, Tapia was the district’s executive director of secondary education, a post he had held since 2007 after being named “Principal of the Year” by the New Mexico Association of Secondary School principals.

The Journal reported on November 8 that Friedly had finally settled with BPS for a sum of $70,000. According to the settlement, the district was required to issue a statement to the media saying: “The school board had differences of opinion with Dr. Friedly regarding the district’s future plans, and the board wanted to move in a new leadership direction sooner, rather than later.” The Friedly settlement included a non-disparagement clause that has effectively kept the issue shrouded in secrecy.

Friedly had been on the job less than a year after taking over from fired Superintendent Barbara Vigil-Lowder. The surprise action came after a meeting of the BPS Board which included three new members. The vote was 4-1, with member Nancy Walker opposing. According to KOAT news, BPS called it a personnel matter and gave no reason for this action, but it was suspected that Friedly on the wrong side of the power struggle that had characterized school board politics in recent years. It was rumored that Friedly was “not the right fit.” Friedly said he was “baffled.” Friedly had recently stated that BPS would have to cut 25 positions because of a $1 million budget shortfall. He was hired following an embezzlement scandal.

According to the online New Mexico Independent, in 2010 State Auditor Hector Balderas found BPS to be at “extremely high” risk of fraud and embezzlement. The district’s mismanagement of federal grants contributed to nearly $25,000 in questionable spending. This followed a risk examination of Bernalillo School District audit findings since 2006, according to a May 19 letter Balderas wrote to Superintendent Barbara Vigil-Lowder. The district’s audit findings revealed inadequate internal controls to prevent embezzlement. Balderas also warned that the district does not have a conflicts of interest policy, creating “a tone from the top that is conducive to favoritism and abuse of district resources.”

Also last month, the BPS board announced that they will soon begin a $44.5 million remodel of Bernalillo High School. Superintendent Tapia did not return calls to the Signpost, but told the Journal that he welcomes the challenging road ahead.

Peruvian gourds available to benefit Casa Rosa

Heating versus eating

Casa Rosa Food Bank in fundraising mode to keep community warm and fed this holiday

—Betsy Model, Casa Rosa Food Bank

While some traditions take decades to establish, there’s one in Placitas that took off quite quickly with what some are referring to as, “that village thing.”

Each year as the temperatures drop, Casa Rosa Food Bank jumps into high gear to try to prevent community members from having to make a decision between “heating or eating.” Cold nights mean more use of propane, fire wood, and electricity, and some Placitas community members, needing to allocate more of their limited resources to keeping their homes and families reasonably warm, do so at the expense of having adequate food to eat.

Last year, Casa Rosa—located in the Village of Placitas —began utilizing the remarkable skills of artisans in another village to raise both funds and hunger awareness in their holiday fundraising campaign. Seed pots—small, traditional pots made from indigenous clays then hand-painted—were purchased from the artists in the village of Mata Ortiz, and the fundraising drive, wonderfully successful, created opportunities for a better, more secure winter for residents in both villages.

This year, a limited number of the seed pots—named for their traditional use as storage vessels for seeds from one harvest to another—are joined by another food-related product intended to co-benefit yet another rural village.

Ornaments, bowls, lidded boxes, and bird houses crafted from gourds are being added to the fundraising mix this holiday season with the artisans hailing, this time, from an Andean village in Peru. The gourds are grown, dried, sometimes stained, and then carved with intricate designs. Ornaments range in size from tiny 1” shapes to 4”, lidded boxes (a beautifully organic way to store paperclips, sugar packets, matchbooks, or similar small items) range from 3” to 7”, and the birdhouses reflect the natural shape of larger gourds with some featuring near-symmetrical shapes and other featuring crooked necks. Also available, are beautifully carved bowls, ideal for displaying dry items such as potpourri, pine cones, nuts, or wrapped candy.

For fun—and to acknowledge the families with children that Casa Rosa serves—the fundraising campaign is also offering finger puppets, hand knit in Peru, which are unique gifts perfect for enclosing in a gift card, in a holiday stocking and for prompting creative thoughts and storytelling among kids of all ages.

The gourd items are purchased at Fair Trade prices insuring that the artisans earn living wages appropriate to supporting their families even as Casa Rosa endeavors to care for the families of Placitas.

And the need, explains Casa Rosa Food Bank co-director Sherrill Cloud, is even greater this year than in winters past.

“Anyone who’s caught the news stories on television and in the papers recently knows that food banks around the country are suffering and our state’s primary food bank warehouse, Road Runner, is having difficulty supplying smaller community food distributors like Casa Rosa with our subsidized food orders. As a result, we’re having to turn to the community more for assistance because we’re now supplementing our food supplies with food purchased at full retail value.”

Following a booth at the Placitas Holiday Sale, Casa Rosa Food Bank will be selling the Mata Ortiz seed pots and the Peruvian gourd items at the Placitas Artist Series event on December 4 starting at 2:00 p.m. and following the Sunday morning service at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church on December 11 and 18.

For questions about the fundraising drive or about how to make a tax-deductible year-end donation to Casa Rosa, call 867-4042 or email

New Mexico State Monuments light the way this holiday season

—New Mexico State Monuments

The state’s monuments tell a unique story about New Mexico’s history and culture. In December, three monuments illuminate the season in their distinctive ways by celebrating the state’s rich traditions.

Christmas at Kuaua (December 5): a place rooted in pre-history, holiday visitors will get into the spirit with an evening designed for family fun. Hundreds of flickering luminarias and thousands of Christmas lights cast their welcoming glow around the Coronado State Monument. Activities start at 5:30 p.m. with Santa’s Workshop: children, assisted by a few kindly elves, will have an opportunity to make their own Christmas tree ornament. At 6:30 p.m. the Friends of Coronado State Monument will sponsor a program of music, traditional Pueblo dancing, and Native American storytelling, with free refreshments. There is no better way to celebrate the season than a large bonfire to warm chilly hands (weather permitting), eat biscochitos, and drink hot apple cider. For more information the public may call 505-867-5351. Admission is free.

Lights among the ruins (December 10): with one of the most beautiful prehistoric and historic sites in the Southwest as a backdrop, the ruins of Giusewa Pueblo and San José de los Jémez Mission Church will be decorated with hundreds of traditional luminarias. The evening’s program starting at 5:00 p.m. and going until 9:00 p.m. will include traditional Native American flute music and Jémez Pueblo dancers’ performance between two illuminating bonfires, and free refreshments. The village of Jémez Springs Park holiday festivities are on the same evening with free horse-drawn wagon rides available to the Monument. For more information the public may call 575-829-3530. Admission is free.

Luminaria Tour (December 10): starting at 5:00 p.m. at Fort Selden State Monument, Radium Springs, NM, history buffs will enjoy visiting with soldiers (living history reenactors) who set up camp for this event. Warm cider will be served from their campfires and at a chuck wagon other free refreshments may be had. Listen to stories about this long abandoned fort. More than campfires light up the evening. Enjoy the spectacle of one thousand luminarias. For more information the public may call 575-526-8911. Admission is free.

A Christmas story at the library

—Barbara Rockwell, Board member, Placitas Community Library

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness.—Charles Dickens

It’s been 18 months now since we moved into the new Placitas Community Library building and have we ever grown. We’ve added hundreds of new patrons and checked out more than 20,000 books and movies this past year. The Collin Meeting Room is proving to be a real community center hosting lectures, movies, art exhibits, and educational sessions for adults, teens, and children. We recently completed paving the back patio and it will be a shaded, spacious area for holding outdoor events of all kinds. All of this growth comes at a price. We now have a pretty good idea of what it takes financially to provide all of the services to you our patrons—about $45,000 a year.  Our crew of volunteers provide their labor gratis, but all of the operating expenses like utilities, telephone, office, and cleaning supplies, insurance premiums, postage, the salary of our part-time librarian, etc., etc. must be paid by contributions from patrons.

You may ask, “What about those library bonds I voted for?” The Sandoval County library bond funds cannot be used for operating expenses. When you voted for the library bond, you probably thought the bond money would pay to keep the library running. That was my assumption, too, but after becoming a member of the library board, I’ve learned that the bond money is restricted to books and equipment only. Not one thin dime can be spent on operating expense. For most libraries, this is not a problem, but the Placitas Community Library is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in an unincorporated area with no tax base to support its operations. All operating expenses must be funded by generous contributions from patrons like you. So this holiday season, please open your hearts along with your wallets and checkbooks and give generously to your community library and I promise you we will give generously back to you. 

PVFB (Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade, that is) Reunion on December 3 at 2:00 p.m. in the Collin Room. Everyone is invited to meet some founding members of the Brigade and hear stories, check out some old photos and video (maybe even of the Thunderbird fire). Winnie Maggiore will lead the panel discussion.

The Placitas Community Library invites you to our Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The morning will begin with stories and crafts for children and the annual ‘breaking of the piñatá. Santa will arrive at 11:45 a.m. and stay through 12:30 p.m. This is always the highlight of the day. Please remember to bring your cameras to record your child on Santa’s lap. The Library will not be taking photos this year. Also, please bring a new children’s book to donate to the Sandoval County Blessings Day. These books will be included with clothing, food, and toys that will be given to families in our county. Refreshments for this event will be donated by The Flying Star Café of Bernalillo. Come join in the fun and celebrate the season of joy and giving at your Placitas Library.

December Events at the Placitas Library

  • December 3: Placitas Fire Brigade Reunion. 2 p.m. A panel discussion with founding members of PVFB and photography exhibit.
  • December 8: Pre-K Story Hour (The only one this month). 10 a.m.
  • December 9: Verble and Johnson artist reception. 5 p.m. Exhibit on display from December 4 to 30.
  • December 10: Holiday Open House 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Stories, crafts, piñata breaking 10-11:45 a.m.; Santa at the Library 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • December 13: Bilingual Story Hour 3 p.m.

District Attorney’s office holds annual sock drive

On November 18, the thirteenth Judicial District Attorney kicked off the sixth annual Sock Drive that will be open until December 16. Donations of socks, hats, gloves, jackets, and blankets will be collected, helping local shelters keep children warm. Boxes will be located in front of the Sandoval County Judicial Complex, 1500 Idalia Rd. NE or the Sandoval County District Attorney’s office at 711 Camino Del Pueblo Sur, Bernalillo.

For more information please contact Adaline Nuanez- Baca at 228-2681.

Sandoval DA offices relocating

The 13th Judicial District Attorneys’ offices in Sandoval County are moving. By December, the administrative office, currently at the AMREP building in Rio Rancho, and the Sandoval office, currently at the Sandoval County Judicial Complex in Bernalillo, will be coming together and moving to the old Bernalillo courthouse on Camino del Pueblo. The move has been months in the making, and the staff is ready to finally combine the two Sandoval County offices.




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