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Showing God’s Love and Light Through Education and Service in Española, New Mexico

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August 21, 2018

by Rev. Diana Loomis, Director of Development and Church Relations of McCurdy Ministries Community Center, as told to TMF

Showing God’s Love and Light Through Education and Service in Española, New Mexico

McCurdy Ministries Community Center has been a part of Española, New Mexico, since young children first posed this question to visiting United Brethren Deaconess Mellie Perkins in 1912: “Will you come be our teacher?” 

This simple invitation led to a path of service, education, opportunity and empowerment for youth and families in the Española Valley. After much prayer and consideration of our century-old commitment to sharing the love of God through education and service, we still see more work to do with our 29-acre, 35-building campus. That’s why we invited TMF representatives, including Director of Grants Ministry Jacki Lammert, to see our mission in action. With their guidance and the generous support from TMF Grants Ministry, we decided to seek funding to increase our capacity. This process of discernment and planning is leading us to renovate our campus and create a nonprofit hub to make services even more accessible to children, youth and adults into the future. 

Why now? Our school holds a place of importance in Española’s rich history. Although it is known as the first European Capital in the New World in 1598 by Spanish conquistador Don Juan De Oñate, Española, New Mexico, did not have a school until Mellie Perkins founded the McCurdy School in 1914. Thus, began the McCurdy Ministries tradition to be a light, a place of hope and opportunity where few existed. 

This area of northern New Mexico is at an elevation similar to Denver. Located near the confluence of the Rio Grande and Rio Chama, it is surrounded by the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The community is predominantly Hispanic and despite the picturesque setting, our families’ stories have many hardships: discrimination, substance abuse, and generational poverty. The local health department reports that 60% of grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Of those reporting to the U.S. Census, 29% live below the federal poverty level and 22% have not graduated from high school or earned a GED. 

This is why the McCurdy Ministries Community Center, an educational support nonprofit, exists to meet these needs and shower the community with God’s love. The McCurdy Ministries Community Center creates hope and empowers the lives of children, youth, adults and families through education, life skills, and faith-based programming. We accomplish our mission by supporting the nearby public K-12 charter school and surrounding community in a variety of ways. 

Our preschool program prepares pre-kindergarteners to excel in school. Our faith-based afterschool program helps pre-K–6thgraders with homework and invites them into closer relationship with God.  We offer elementary-aged children a summer day camp that emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), community service, and faith-based activities. We provide nutritious meals, running the school breakfast and lunch program serving more than 5,000 breakfasts and 60,000 lunches this past year to a pre-school and school population where 60-80% qualify for free or reduced-price meals. So that children and families can heal, our Project Cariño program offers on-site, school-based mental health counseling and therapeutic services for children and their families. God’s love is experienced through a nourishing lunch, a quieting word from our counselors, attention and care from a volunteer tutor and a fun and safe place to be after school.

But we realized that we still had work to do because adults who had not graduated from high school also needed a way to earn their GED to provide more opportunities for their family. They told us that the lack of childcare made going back to school difficult. This past fall we launched an Adult Education program in cooperation with Northern New Mexico College to offer high school equivalency classes and continuing education with reliable, free childcare. Literacy tutoring in partnership with the Rio Arriba Adult Literacy Program will soon follow.

When lives are transformed, everything changes. This is why we are embarking on a four phase $10.8 million Capital Campaign that will renovate four essential buildings:  the new Cole Adult Ministries Center, Children’s Ministry Center, McCracken Teen Center, and Retreat Center, which will house volunteer mission teams and other groups visiting from across the country.

What will this mean for Española? We envision parents and grandparents having new places to receive hope and support. We will be able to provide more educational opportunities, computer skills, English as a Second Language classes, and financial literacy to help adults reach for better jobs and careers. We plan to offer more classroom spaces for pre-kindergarteners, since there are not enough currently to meet the demand in the area. We want to provide sports and arts activities for teenagers so they have a place to belong and keep them out of harm’s way. To holistically care for our community, we plan to expand our mental health services so they are even more accessible. And last but not least, we envision having more space for mission teams and volunteers to work on our campus to be the hands and feet of our Lord.

As our 29-acre campus transforms from the original boarding school more than a century ago, we aim to help children, youth, adults and families discover their own light and hope, find the will to improve their lives, the skills they need and the paths to get there. The difference we make is strengthened by the unique partnerships we have formed with organizations like TMF, who believe in our vision for Española, and the faith we share with the world, when we vamos con Dios (go with God).

Editor’s note: Our TMF blog shares stories and essays inspired by our purpose: to help individuals, families, congregations and organizations achieve their God-inspired potential. TMF Grants Ministries first invested in McCurdy Ministries in 2014 in support of their early childhood preschool program. In Fall 2017, the organization was awarded a capacity building grant to help fund a new Associate Director of Development for grant research, writing and social media engagement.


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