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State employees collect Red Cross funds


New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, right, greets and wishes well Ellen Benton, 72, of Farmington, who was about to leave on her first deployment as a Red Cross volunteer. She will be posted to shelters in the flood-ravaged Houston area, hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. (GREG SORBER/JOURNAL)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State employees raised $13,524 for disaster relief in New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Wednesday during a news conference at the Albuquerque offices of the American Red Cross New Mexico.

In presenting the check, the governor said the money was collected in July as part of this year’s Dollars for Disaster campaign conducted by state employees. New Mexico is currently the only state government to have a Red Cross campaign, she said.

The partnership between Red Cross New Mexico and New Mexico state employees was initiated by Department of Transportation employee and Red Cross board member Yvonne Encinias in the wake of the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire, which burned across 156,000 acres of northern New Mexico wilderness.

“From fires, floods and other emergencies, New Mexicans know more than most how important it is to be prepared, and how to come together to help those in need. I’m proud that our state employees are leading by example,” Martinez said.

“I also ask that all New Mexicans join me in supporting the Red Cross as they work to help our neighbors in Texas with Hurricane Harvey.”

The Red Cross is currently working to deliver food, water and other essential goods in the affected area. It is also working to set up and maintain shelters for those displaced by the hurricane, a task that has proved challenging because some shelters are now being evacuated due to rising flood waters, Martinez said.

Kathy Segura-Salas, executive director of the Red Cross New Mexico, said “it’s too early in the response” to know with any degree of accuracy how much individual and corporate money has been donated to Red Cross offices throughout the state on behalf of relief efforts in Texas.

Martinez said she’s been unable to make contact with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, but has had a conversation with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. “I offered him any and all of our state agency assets,” she said. “We have uploaded everything we have available, and then when they need it they just ask for it and we will send assistance over to them. New Mexico stands ready to help in any way we can.”

In the meantime, Martinez said the New Mexico National Guard has deployed three aircraft and their crews to aid in relief efforts, as well as prepared a team of more than 80 personnel to accommodate potential additional requests for assistance.

The governor on Wednesday also greeted and wished well Ellen Benton, 72, who was leaving for the Houston area to assist in shelter relief operations there. A Red Cross volunteer for less than six months, this will be Benton’s first deployment with the organization.

She is among about 15 Red Cross volunteers from across New Mexico who are already in the Houston area or are en route.

“My motivation was just to go in and see what I can contribute to the situation,” she said. “It’s really sad, and you feel so sorry for all the people going through this and losing their homes, and the animals. There are people completely displaced and I just want to help them.”


Ellen Benton of Farmington brings her luggage into the American Red Cross Albuquerque headquarters on Wednesday, prior to being shuttled to the airport for a flight to Houston, where she will volunteer in shelter operations there. (GREG SORBER/JOURNAL)