Amid the tragedies of the last few months and the fiscal uncertainly of the new year, it’s comforting to know there are many people willing to open their hearts — and sometimes their homes or pocketbooks — to help others.
Journal UpFront columnist Joline Gutierrez Krueger recently gave a nod to some of those angels here at home. She had many nominations from readers, including The Rev. Trey Hammond and the members of La Mesa Presbyterian Church, Maria Strokan, Sherry Keeney, Matlakyei Otzeloti, Gary Rasmussen, Louella Wilburn, Wayne Smith, Rebecca Medina, Peggy Darlington, Carol Latham, Katherine Constantino, Buzz Biernacki, Mary Ann Copas, Lisa Trabaudo, Neal Copperman, Ann Beyke, Peter Cubra, Pegasus Legal Services for Children, Pete Vredenburg, Lucille Gonzales, Pamela Jantzen and Yolanda Ankeny of Women in Need, Jason Gutierrez, Dr. Richard Heise, Karl Ortega and Albert Anaya.
She chose to feature two nominees.
Retiree Richard Chong, 65, stays busy with the city of Albuquerque’s Foster Grandparent Program, which places folks 55 and older with at-risk or special needs children in schools, hospitals, correctional institutions, Head Start and daycare centers
Chong is known as Gung Gung — Chinese for “grandfather” — to 21 fourth-graders at Whittier Elementary in the Southeast Heights. On school days, he eats breakfast and lunch with the children, imparts his knowledge in their social studies class and brings them items from his culture. He also spends afternoons as a Senior Companion volunteer, driving housebound seniors to doctor’s appointments, stores and other errands. And he says he benefits, too.
“This is good for me, good for my spirit,” he says. “And I will say one thing more before I go: If you see me and something I said or did made you feel better, that’s what I want to hear.”
Then there’s Tryslyn Campos, 17, who started a project she calls TeeCeeBoo’s Wysh, named after her two dogs and aimed at collecting chew toys, tug ropes, Frisbees, tennis balls and bones for dogs in the city’s animal shelters. Campos also rescues stray dogs, nurses them back to health, seeks out their owners or finds them new ones and volunteers at spay-and-neuter clinics held by New Mexico Dogs Deserve Better in Rio Rancho. This holiday season she dressed as a Christmas elf for photography fundraisers at PetSmart for Watermelon Mountain Ranch and Bella Pet Wash and Boutique.
As if that’s not enough, the 3.0 GPA senior at Volcano Vista High School also volunteers with the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp, Joy Junction and Bernalillo County Council’s PTA Clothing Bank. And she does this while battling paramyotonia congenita, a rare neuromuscular disorder that causes stiffness and weakness in the muscles.
“Doing good things for others is such a good feeling,” she says. “Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference.”
Amen to that.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.