Altrusa chapter earns national recognition

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

The room was hardly fitting a library — a dark, dusty space with shopping carts, exercise equipment and a few boxes of old books.

Now, the Pioneer Senior Center Library looks more like a living room, with new shelving, rugs, lamps and furniture to go along with nearly 1,000 books.

The room at the Tucumcari Public Library was renovated by Altrusa International of Tucumcari on Oct. 22, 2005 — the 15th annual Make a Difference Day, as recognized by USA Weekend Magazine.

The current edition of USA Weekend, which appears in Friday’s Albuquerque Journal, and Sunday’s Clovis News-Journal and Portales News-Tribune issues, features the service organization as one of 449 listed as making a difference for those in their respective communities.

“It’s amazing,” said Linda Donwerth, the Altrusa literacy chair for Tucumcari. “It’s an honor because nationally, Tucumcari has been recognized. I would have never thought it would happen.”

As long as Donwerth can remember, the literacy committee of Altrusa has taken the responsibility of a project for Make a Difference Day, which encourages hands-on helping and now involves 3 million people across the country for one Saturday in each October, according to USA Weekend’s Web site for the event (www.makeadifferenceday.com).

Donwerth said the community service committee was looking for a project, and they spoke with Clara Rey at city hall. Rey directed the members to the library, and the room met the criteria just right — helping out community members and doing so from a standpoint of literacy.

Glenda Reid, the chapter president, said after the project was lined up, they were able to furnish the room through discounted merchandise from Jennings Furniture and a donation of 950 books from Dr. David Lazarus.

With everything in place, the Altrusa members cleaned the room, gave it a fresh coat of paint and filled it with its new books and furnishings. With less than $300 and some volunteer labor, the storage closet was nice enough that library staff now holds meetings in the room from time to time.

“It looked like a home instead of just a junkyard,” Reid said. “It was wonderful to stand back and look at the progress we had made.”

Later, Donwerth submitted news of the project to the headquarters of Altrusa International and to USA Weekend. In her application to USA Weekend, she included before and after pictures and newspaper articles documenting the project.

In February, Donwerth received a call from a USA Weekend representative. Donwerth held out hope the project would earn the group top honors and a $10,000 prize. The group didn’t receive that, but the members are happy with the reward of helping neighbors and friends.

“Those seniors are always so appreciative when we go in and see them,” Reid said. “They’re so appreciative and it makes your heart feel so good to help someone.”

Altrusa International of Tucumcari has conducted reading fairs for elementary school children and donated portraits of artist Georgia O’Keeffe for previous Make a Difference Day projects.