As Executive Director, I am pleased to report that in 2015, Not Forgotten Outreach, Inc. (NFO) provided adaptive and non-adaptive recreational/therapeutic activities to three thousand six hundred ninety-eight (3,698) Military Families from New Mexico and 26 different States from around the Nation. One thousand three hundred eleven (1,311) were from Taos County.; for purposes of NFO, Military Families include Gold Star Families, Active Duty, Reservist, National Guard, Veterans and their Family members.
In 2015, NFO was blessed with over 2,000 community volunteer hours. NFO volunteers stem from local residents, Rocky Mountain Youth Corp, Shadow Mountain & Vista Taos (drug/alcohol treatment centers), Southern Methodist University Taos (SMU), University of New Mexico (UNM) Green Technology & Sustainable Farming, Dream Tree Project (homeless Teen shelter), Lincoln High School, Lincoln, Main, Taos Chrysalis Alternative High School, AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team, Habitat for Humanity Taos, Taos County Drug and Alcohol Program and Military Families from Taos and around the Nation.
2015 Activities & Military Family Participants include:
|· Taos Veterans Yoga
|· Farm Therapy Animals
|· Red River Motorcycle Rally (Mil History Display)
|· Battle Buddy Suicide Prevention Workshop
|· Suicide Prevention Intervention
|· Taos Veterans Creative Arts Festival
|· Aquaponics Workshop
|· Warrior Canine Connection
|· Taos Veterans Day Picnic
|· Espanola Stand Down
|· Sled Hockey
|· Sipapu Ski event
|· Taos Ski event
|· Angel Fire Ski event
|· Military Family Respite Center (Mil Family Visitors)
|· Military Family Respite (7day stays)
|· Peer to Peer Counseling
|· New Veterans Registered in VA system
|· Drug/Alcohol Intervention
Total Participants 3,698
Total Local Military Families served: 1,311
Taos Veterans Yoga – is collaboration between Connected Warriors and NFO. Volunteer yoga instructors teach two (2) weekly classes in Taos, NM, one (1) weekly class in Questa, NM and one (1) weekly class in Angel Fire, unfortunately the instructor of the Angel Fire class moved away in Aug 2015. The three classes taught over thirty-five (35) Military Family members. A yoga class was held during the Taos Ski Valley event with (4) attendees. Mats, blocks, straps were giving to all attendees and nine (9) veterans that practice at home. Inroads were made within the New Mexico VA Health Care system, during a meeting with the NMVA Director Welch; he stated he whole-heartedly supports veteran practicing yoga to help deal with PTS, depression and anxiety. The VA Albuquerque has already requested ten (10) sets of yoga supplies.
Taos Veterans Farmer Project’s – mission is to aid veterans reintegrating into civilian life by growing produce, raising farm animals, and conducting seminars on holistic health and sustainability. Veteran’s sustainable farming bolster’s local and regional economies, creating good jobs and building strong communities. NFO leads by example and teaches Military Families, how to sell vegetables & meats to local restaurants, grocery stores and feeding numerous visitors. NFO encourage healthy habits, like eating well and physical activity. In 2013, NFO based the farming project from the NM VA’s Veteran Farming Program. In 2015, approximately 3 tons of vegetables were grown by NFO Military Families. Meat and vegetable products were purchased by seven (7) local restaurants; Cid’s and Dr. Field Goods butcher shop.
Therapy Animals – NFO’s programs with farm animals, goats, pigs, chickens and miniature horses, can be important supplements to a traditional psychiatric treatment in reaching the goals of self-esteem and coping ability. An intervention with farm animals will shift from care in an institutional regime to increased social integration and normalization of care. In Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) with farm animals, suggests that the combined effect of both contact and work with the animals can affect the participants positively; by providing a source of physical contact with a living “other”, and increased coping ability and self-esteem through routines that include feeding, milking, and caring for other living creatures. NFO works closely with the Taos VA Clinic and the ABQ VA Hospital.
Military History Display – The Town of Red River again, generously donates space to NFO during the Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally for an informational, fundraising booth and Military History Display. With the help of VFW Post 3259 of Taos, NFO creates a fantastic display of military uniforms and memorabilia dating from 1787-2014.
Suicide Prevention – In cooperation with the VA Healthcare System and the Indian Health Service, NFO hosted a free “First Responder” suicide prevention workshop with military veterans and their families and Civilians. The training focused on ways the local veteran community can be “First Responders” to prevent suicide among their “Battle Buddies”, themselves and other veterans and their families. After the training, six (6) of the attendees implemented the training by responding when one of the NFO Veterans attempted suicide. These six (6) individuals supported the veteran and family during his stay at Holly Cross Hospital and during his stay at the Albuquerque VA.
Taos Veterans Creative Arts Festival – The Town of Taos continues its generous sponsorship, by allowing NFO to host the festival free of charge, in return, NFO allows Military Families to show and sell their “therapy art” to the public, free of charge. In 2015, approximately 3,000 tourists and locals viewed the Military Families art. NFO creative arts festival stems from a conversation with the local VA social worker who stated she was counseling many Veterans whom were using art as part of their therapy but never showed the art to anyone outside the home. She asked if NFO could help with a venue for the Veterans to display and sell their therapy artwork.
Aquaponic Workshop – in conjunction with Colorado Aquaponics, NFO hosted the workshop with forty-eight (48) attendees, fourteen (14) of which were Military Families. The workshop taught participants the basics in building their own aquaponics system, to include basic fish husbandry, best types of vegetables to grow, and plant nutrition. The workshop ended with a Tour of NFO Veteran Gary James’s aquaponics system that he built in his green house for year around production.
Therapy Dog Training – in conjunction with Warrior Canine Connection, NFO helped in obtaining a grant from AmeriCorps, for Veterans to help in the training of therapy dogs in Taos. Once a week for 3 months Veterans learned from professional therapy dog trainers with young dogs that are learning to become therapy dogs.
Taos Veterans Day Picnic – with the gracious support of the Town of Taos and local VFW Post 3259 and the help of AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers, NFO once again hosted an all donated pot-luck style picnic at the new location at the Guadalupe Gymnasium. With over 450 attendees. Unfortunately, this number is down from last year. The possible explanations would be the new location and lack of banner over Hwy 64. The attendees were treated to large amounts of food, entertainment and informational booths of eight (8) Veteran related organizations.
Stand Down – NFO participated with thirty-two (32) organizations in Espanola, NM to host the 1st Annual Espanola “Stand Down”. With the help of AmeriCorps NCCC team clothing, winter gear and personal hygiene, items were distributed to thirty-two (32) Veterans. NFO passed out program information and VA suicide prevention information.
Military Family Ski Events – Taos Ski Valley & Sipapu Summer/Ski Resort proudly collaborates with NFO to host ski events for Military Families at an affordable price, allowing for winter recreational therapy activities. Average price for a family of four (4), with children’s all day lesson, rentals, lift tickets and with one (1) night of lodging $175.00. During the event Military Families enjoy days of alpine skiing, while at the same time being made to feel special and appreciated by the resort staff and NFO volunteers. Lunch was provided at Sipapu to one hundred (100) Military Families and Taos Ski Valley out did themselves during the dinner which fed over two hundred fifty (250) Military Family attendees. The NFO ski events are based off the VA’s National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic (NDVWSC); in 2013 & 2014, the NDVWSC provided their equipment and staff to the events.
Respite Center – the NFO Military Family Respite Center is a new acquisition. The “Respite Center”, is located on 2 acres, with secluded tranquility and breathtaking mountain views. The building is 5,150 sq. ft., with seven (7) rooms, seven (7) bathrooms, eight (8) fireplaces with a 1,250 sq. ft. Casita that is utilized as office space and a computer lab and tool storage and is home to a living sustainable Farm. NFO has commenced the remodeling and renovation of the “Respite Center” into an ADA compliant building, with a commercial kitchen and elevator. The location is utilized as an alcohol and drug free central hub for Military Families in Taos. Daily 9-17 Military Family members stop by the Respite Center for relaxation, friendship and peer-to-peer counseling. I have witnessed, a WWII veteran speaking with a Korean era veteran, a Vietnam era veteran and three Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, Military Children playing with farm animals and helping other veterans. I have asked some of the older Military children, if they found it beneficial to be around veterans. I was amazed at the response of “I’m learning that my Mom acts just like all of you guy’s (meaning all veterans)”. The Military Children are learning that the parent’s behavior at times, stems from a disability from service, not a lack of love. Over one hundred thirty-seven thousand dollars ($137,000.00) of in-kind donation have been received for the center, from January 1 – December 31, 2015. The installation of new TPO roofing material and 2” of insulation board is 95% complete. A 2.8Kw Solar system has been installed. Four (4) of the seven (7) rooms are partially renovated. Target date for the grand opening is 01Aug2016.
Peer to Peer – NFO creates an atmosphere for Military Families to come together for the opportunity of peer-to-peer counseling. The military has created a culture in which service members take care of each other. Common experiences, particularly for those who have served in combat, bind individuals together. Shared experiences are the foundation for peer support, as they foster the initial trust and credibility necessary for developing relationships in which individuals are willing to open up and discuss their problems despite concerns about stigma. Peer-to-peer programs facilitate opportunities for individuals to talk with trained peer supporters who can offer educational and social support and provide avenues for additional help if needed. Peer support groups can help you cope with memories of the trauma or other parts of your life that you are having trouble dealing with as a result of the event. You may learn to deal with emotions such as anger, shame, guilt, and fear if you open up to others who understand.
NFO Interns – NFO has implement a six (6) and twelve (12) month internship program. The interns are provided housing and advice on how to navigate the VA system. Interns in turn take on leadership responsibilities i.e. farming project, peer mentorship, alcohol/drug support groups, mentorship of youth, while maintaining VA counseling and health care appointments.
NFO host a Wednesday night dinner – In 2015, NFO initiated a new concept of inviting Military Families and volunteers enjoy a get together evening. Each week a different Veteran or volunteer cook for 25- 35 individuals, supplies for the dinner are provided by NFO.
AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team – provides service to projects that meet an identifiable public need and emphasize the performance of community service activities that provide meaningful community benefits and opportunities for service learning and skills development for the Corps Members. NFO is only the third (3rd) Military related Non-Profit to receive an AmeriCorps NCCC team since 2013. The 11 person NCCC team served with NFO from Oct. 31 – Dec. 19, 2016 providing an in-kind dollar value of $66,850.
Finances – during Fiscal Year 01 July 2014 – 30 Sep 2015, NFO received $135,297.00 in donations. $93,150.00 in Non-Cash contributions.
Management/Administrative expenses $4,145.00
Fund-Raising expenses $4,614.00
Administrative/Fundraising expenses as % of Revenue 6.5%
NFO is an All Volunteer Non-Profit – No Paid Staff
Future Plans –
Farming – acquisition of 90 acres with, dormitory rooms for more interns, green house, and agricultural water well, farm house, chicken production area, pig area and goat breeding and milking barn and production area.
Healthy Eating/Value added – Two restaurateurs in Taos, have offered to develop and start a program in the NFO commercial kitchen to teach Military Families how to cook nutritionally and produce value added products from the NFO Farm.
We look forward to all the wonderful improvements and “Grand Opening” of the Military Family Respite Center, and welcoming the Military Families to a free one (1) week stay in our Historic and breathtaking community of Taos. To accomplish the remodeling task in the next five (5) months $190,500.00 needs to be raised. Local contractors and construction supply companies are donating their time and supplies to offset the remodeling cost.
- Stucco both buildings $20,000.00
- Flooring (joist/covering) $15,000.00
- Elevator (purchase/installation) $70,000.00
- Paint (inside/out) $12,500.00
- Commercial Kitchen $35,000.00
- Fireplaces repair $7,000.00
- Electric upgrade $12,000.00
- Emergency Egress deck $7,000.00
- Plumbing upgrade $12,000.00
I thank the Taos community for the heartfelt support of the Military Families and Not Forgotten Outreach, Inc.
Don Peters II