Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Around Town

Laying sod

Parents, teachers and community members donate their time to help lay sod for the new soccer filed at Placitas Elementary School.

A big score for Placitas school children

—Ellen Faris

In mid-September, parents, teachers, and students at Placitas Elementary School spent a Saturday afternoon laying sod. Armed with shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows, 26 families got together to improve their community. Over 26,600 square feet of sod was laid in only a few hours.

This is the only play field in the village for our children and community. Years ago, the field fell into disrepair, but through limited school district funds and fundraising, they were able to afford the material, but not the labor. This is where teacher and parent volunteers made the difference. Volunteers started at 8 a.m. and laid the last piece of sod around 1 p.m.

For the last eight years, the dirt field was filled with gravel, weeds, and goatheads—not an ideal place for children to play. Now, this is a multiuse grass field. Children enjoy it daily during recess and regular P.E. classes. Recently, they used the field for the school’s annual jogathon.

Without the support of the school’s administration, faculty, and parents, this project would have never been completed. “An endeavor of this magnitude requires a number of elements to be successful,” said Dan MacEachen, principal of Placitas Elementary School. “Bernalillo Public Schools committed to part of the financing, and the balance was provided by Placitas Elementary. The element that made this project even remotely feasible, however, was the participation of our parents to provide the labor. Given the budgetary constraints that schools throughout the state are currently facing, such an ambitious undertaking of laying sod for an entire soccer field would have been out of the question.”

Casa Rosa

Casa Rosa Food Bank in Placitas features new repairs, thanks to volunteers from the community and from Michigan's Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church. Some of the key volunteers included (from left to right) Tom and Pat Luley (Placitas), Steve Benton, Sue Quinn, and Dave Loudon (Grosse Ile), Jeff Dickson (Placitas), Robb Albrecht, Kathy Benton, Marta Kramer, and Kathy Rankin (Grosse Ile).

More than skin deep: 

Casa Rosa Food Bank renovation a study in the beauty of volunteerism and long distance friendship

—Betsy Model

When Placitas resident Tom Luley retired from Ford Motor Company and moved west with his wife, Pat, and family, they brought with them more than your typical household items and the requisite Ford truck; they brought the relationships with their friends and their church in Michigan as well.

One of Tom’s best friends, Robb Albrecht, came to visit the Luley family in Placitas last fall, and after assisting Tom unload a food delivery truck at the Casa Rosa Food Bank one morning, Robb and Tom both recognized some immediate similarities between the small island community in Michigan where they’d lived—Grosse  Ile—and Placitas.

At first glance, whether on a map or on a drive through the two communities, it would be hard to find the common denominators. Michigan’s famously cold and dark winters can’t really be compared to Placitas’ typically mild snow days, and Grosse Ile’s green-island landscape bears little resemblance to Placitas’ high-desert hills and golden hues.

The obvious similarities, both men concurred, were in the sense of community and in local residents stepping up to the plate to get things accomplished.

Albrecht was so impressed with what he witnessed that day at Casa Rosa—the nonprofit food bank sponsored by Las Placitas Presbyterian Church—that on his return to Grosse Ile, he shared with his Presbyterian church the normal news and friendly updates about the Luley’s new home and then made a suggestion to the congregation: Since the Casa Rosa facility was in obvious need of both physical and aesthetic repair, why didn’t a volunteer group go visit their old friend, Tom, and put in a few days of labor to benefit the food bank?

And—hey!—doesn’t that area have a world-famous balloon festival, too?

A scant few months later and with a generous donation of $500 from the Mission and Stewardship Committee at Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church, a crew of seven volunteers from Grosse Ile descended on Placitas in time to help renovate Casa Rosa for the upcoming winter months, and following the renovation, just in time to see ascents and descents of a different kind at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

The food bank, which hadn’t had the necessary funding to undertake the renovations by themselves, took a page from their “one equals nine” philosophy and set to work. On an everyday basis, the food bank—under the leadership of Executive Director Charlotte Lough—can parlay every dollar donated by individuals and organizations into nine dollars worth of food through partnerships with Roadrunner Food Bank and other food donors and suppliers. 

With Tom Luley serving as site manager and with the assistance of the food bank’s regular volunteers, clients, and local Placitas residents who heard about the project, Casa Rosa was able to turn the Michigan church group’s $500 donation into almost $3,000 worth of critical repairs.

Placitas-based Two Rivers Construction donated advice, equipment use, and paint, while Placitas resident (and Casa Rosa board member) Matt Gurule donated more than 40 hours of stucco repair. Discounted and donated materials came in from a wide variety of sources, including Lowes, TaGrMo True Value, The Carpet Company, Materials Inc., and Hunter-Bower Lumber. Casa Rosa board members and local residents stepped in to provide meals for the volunteer work crews and Michigan guests, and in a matter of three days, Casa Rosa was the recipient of roof, gutter, and wall repairs, exterior paint, porch and portico repair, and interior carpet.

An all volunteer, all donation organization, Casa Rosa Food Bank will be able to provide food distribution services to its clients this winter in a safer, drier environment. Sincere thanks go out to all of the generous and hardworking Michigan volunteers—Steve and Kathy Benton, Sue Quinn, Dave Loudon, Robb Albrecht, Marta Kramer, and Kathy Rankin—as well as to all of the Placitas-area friends and neighbors who volunteered time, sweat, and materials. 

Small communities who pitch in to take care of their own, whether in Michigan or in New Mexico, are able to create positive, sustainable change in a ripple effect that, in this particular case, stretched nearly 3,000 miles.

Spence Hot Springs

As a public health and safety precaution, Spence Hot Springs in Jemez, NM will be closed to all users during reconstruction of the visitor parking lot and access trail to the hot springs.

Surface drainage from the existing parking area has caused severe erosion and has washed out the access trail.

The parking lot reconstruction will include demolishment of the existing parking area and replacement with an asphalt parking lot. The new parking area will provide visitor parking, while protecting the hot springs from overuse and resource degradation. The access trail will be reconstructed afterward to provide a more convenient means to the hot springs.

The project is scheduled for completion this fall, unless preempted by winter snows.

To learn more about the Spence Hot Springs Improvement Project, call the Santa Fe National Forest Public Affairs Office at (505) 438-5320 or the Jemez Ranger District at (575) 829-3535.

Books, yoga, and more books

Fall is a busy time at the Placitas Community Library. The Día de los Muertos celebration resulted in an altar display in the children’s section of the library, while the photo exhibit of longtime Placitas residents and families continued to attract many people interested in learning more about the community.

November continues with more activities for all ages. All budding novelists and even those who have never even considered writing a novel are encouraged to join the National Novel Writing Month’s Placitas contingent sponsored by the library. Participants begin writing on November 1 and continue until November 30 at midnight, when they will end up with their own 50,000-word masterpiece! It’s a fun exercise, resulting in often funny and sometimes amazing pieces of work. You never know what you can do until you get started. There will be “write-in“ sessions at the library every Sunday in November from 1-3 p.m. for support and ideas. Sign up at the library or go to the library Web site ( for more information.

For those who are looking for a more physical pursuit, come to the library on Saturday, November 13 at 2:00 p.m. to hear Meta Chaya Hirschl, author of Vital Yoga: A Sourcebook for Students and Teachers. Meta has studied yoga for decades and now has her own studio, YogaNow, which has been open since 2001 in Albuquerque. She recently received the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Gold Medal and the 2010 Living Now Book Award. Meta will explain how yoga can change your world by helping you cultivate a vibrantly healthy body, mind, and spirit. Come and meet Meta, and learn why reviewers have said of her book, “It is a gem! If a person could only have one book on yoga, Meta’s would be the one!”

Stock your shelves and nightstands at the Library Book Sale on Saturday and Sunday, November 20 and 21, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be a wide variety of hardcover and paperback books to choose from at really low prices. Sunday is Bargain Day—everything you can fit in a bag for $3.00! Of course, we will be providing those bags. There will also be a bake sale of delicious homemade goodies.

Upcoming Events:

  • November 7, 14, 21, 28: 1-3 p.m. National Novel Writing Month Write-ins
  • November 9, 16, 23, 30: 4:30-5:30 p.m. Free Juggling Classes with Chris Enright 
  • November 13: 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. We the People Day 
  • November 16: 3 p.m. Kids’ Book Club  
  • November 18: 10 a.m. Pre-K Story Hour 
  • November 20-21: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Library Book and Bake Sale  
  • November 30: 3 p.m. Bilingual Story Hour. NOTE: Rescheduled from November 9.


Santa is coming

—Margaret M. Nava

Most of us envision Santa Claus as a kindly old man riding in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. But Santa wearing sunglasses and waving at kids from the back of a horse buggy drawn by mules?

That was the scene at last year’s Christmas de Caballos Toys for Tots Parade held in Corrales. The parade, sponsored by Corrales Horse and Mule People (CHAMP) and believed to be the largest equine-only parade in New Mexico, included at least 100 riders clad in Victorian costumes or Western gear and mules, horses, and carriages decked out in their holiday finest. The Sandoval County Sheriff’s Posse, several local riders’ groups, and a Marine color guard also joined the procession as it traveled from Rancho de Corrales to the Village recreation center on Corrales Road.

Melanie Scholer, CHAMP board member and co-coordinator of the parade, said more than 400 toys were collected last year. “Aside from entertaining people and increasing the visibility of horses in Corrales, the primary objective of our parade is to work with the Marine Corps to collect toys for less fortunate children in Sandoval County, so that they may enjoy the joy of Christmas. This will be our seventh year, and we’re hoping to expand the parade route to the Wagner Corn Maze so that more people can participate.”

This year’s parade will take place on Sunday, November 21 at 1 p.m. Spectators are encouraged to bring unwrapped, new toys suitable for children 16 years and under. Carriage rides and photo ops with Santa will be offered at the end of the parade. Watch the CHAMP Web site ( for more information, and make sure you attend the parade to see what Santa will be wearing (or doing) this year.

Bosque Youth mural

Completed Bosque Youth Panel

Youth panel

Ms. Kirwin and Ms. Heise, along with students Montana Sandoval, Ashley Moreno and Vanessa Baldonado press clay into bark last April for the first Bosque Habitat panel.

Ongoing community art project incorporates youth from three schools in latest panel

—Cirrelda Snider-Bryan, Pathways Wildlife Corridors of New Mexico

One of the goals of the Pathways mural project at the Placitas Recycling Center was that one of our six habitat panels have its parts be created entirely by youth. And with this latest panel of our Rio Grande cottonwood bosque, we have succeeded in that goal. Over a period of four months this past winter and spring, I went into three schools and got great support from administrators and teachers to have students contribute. Mid September, their contributions will have a full mosaic laid around them and be installed on the wall, thanks to twenty stalwart volunteers who have spent a hundred plus hours laying it out since mid May.

Twelve advanced art eighth graders from Bernalillo Middle School began by visiting the Rio Grande in early January, where they sketched and took photographs to later use to develop their own designs of how to portray this important migration corridor in our state. Elise Vanarsdale of Pathways, Timothy Smith, wildlife technician for Sandia Pueblo, and myself accompanied those students on that field trip, which also included a visit to the room of Kuaua’s preserved kiva murals. Later, Timothy visited the classroom and gave information about his tribe’s project to reintroduce wild turkeys to their lands, both in the foothills and by the river. Students voted on their favorite design, and the three (Devin Maes, Isaiah Martinez and Patricia Yager) that got the most votes were combined to make up the mosaic design. Each of the twelve students studied animals from the Bosque Education Guide and made clay tiles of animals from their own drawings. These were glazed and fired at the school. Nine sixth graders also contributed some smaller animals and a few plants. More eighth grade art students made cottonwood leaves. All students were led in a discussion about local wildlife through a PowerPoint presentation made about the area. Principal Miles and Assistant Principal Marez heartily encouraged participation by the Bernalillo Middle School students.

Eleven ninth, tenth and eleventh graders from Amy Biehl Charter High School created the mosaic for the river during their April Project Week. They spent four mornings learning about how important the river is to migration alongside learning new skills of cutting glass and using Versabond and grout. Tina Garcia-Shams, Amy Biehl Community Engagement Director, embraced the opportunity for participation in “community art for wildlife” with open arms. These older students brought a great spirit of helpfulness and enthusiasm to their work.

During April and May, 19 third graders from Algodones Elementary drew bosque plants and created tiles from them. Principal Laura Greenleaf gave her blessing, and third grade teacher Georgina Heise, along with art teacher Julianna Kirwin, gave much time and enthusiasm. The 19 students plus staff members created plant and insect tiles from drawings, also using the Bosque Education Guide images. Creating the plant tiles also included a day when a small group pressed clay into the bark of the playground cottonwood.

Then it has taken a few months of one or two days a week to assemble them — 27 days by 20 volunteers from May through mid September. Bark has been glazed, many more cottonwood leaves made, border glass cut and arranged, tile nipped and fitted around the animals, plants, and river. The spirit is akin to a quilting bee, with accompanying enthusiasm and enjoyment. September 16 Peter Callen led the installation by hauling the panel up to the Recycling Center and over the next 4 days 29 individuals finished what the students started.

To view the panels, including another brand new one depicting wild horses and dedicated to David Cramer, wild horse photographer, take I-25 to Exit 242 and then drive east a half mile. Watch for the Placitas Recycling Center parking area on the left (north) side of Highway 165.

Donation boxes have been graciously allowed at the Merc in Placitas, The Range in Bernalillo and at the Placitas Library so that interested community members can help the group recoup its expenses. For more information e-mail Cirrelda Snider-Bryan at or project instigator Laura Robbins at For more information on Pathways, visit




Ad Rates  Back Issues  Contact Us  Front Page  Up Front  Animal News   Around Town  Arts At Home Business Classifieds Calendar  Community Bits  Community Center   Eco-Beat  Featured Artist  The Gauntlet Health  Community Links  Night Skies  My Wife and Times  Public Safety Puzzles Real People Schoolbag Stereogram  Time Off