Socorro Shining Stars bring light to the community


Earlier this month El Defensor Chieftain announced a call for community participation when we asked for Community Shining Star nominations.
The request was for short essays about people in the Socorro and Catron county who enrich the lives of those around them and contribute to others through hard work and dedication in all walks of life.
The responses were wonderful and varied. It was very difficult to choose the five who were to take the award home with them. Awardees were selected by Allen Stenger, an active member of the Alamogordo community who had no knowledge of any of the nominees until he read the essays.
El Defensor Chieftain would like to thank everybody who participated in this project, especially the shining stars themselves, Shannon Donnelly, Joseph Gonzales, Marisa Wolfe, Eileen Stringer and Elizabeth Hayward, for taking the time to care about and for the people around them.
The Chieftain plans to continue the Shining Stars project and so  encourages everyone to watch for those special, caring people throughout the next year.


Shannon Donnelly

Shannon Donnelly moved to Pie Town  two years ago in April, from southern California.  She and her husband, Sam Palahnuk attended the Pie Festival that summer, and Donnelly signed up as a volunteer.
“You grow up in southern California and you know about fire country,” Donnelly said. She knew the importance of a good fire department in the desert.
It wasn’t long before Donnelly and Palahnuk were further recruited with the eEmergency medical dervices department, Palahnuk as an ambulance driver and Donnelly as an emergency medical technician basic.
“If you’ve been in an automobile accident in the Pie Town area, or if you’re suffering from a medical emergency, it’ll be her smiling face you see in that ambulance,” Palahnuk said in his nomination of his wife for the Shining Star Award.
Donnelly is also a volunteer at the Food Fair, a local food pantry in Pie Town that distributes commodities and food packages to those in need.
When Donnelly isn’t busy with emergency services for the Pie Town area, she is the editor for the Catron Courier, a nonprofit newspaper for all of Catron County. Her main job since moving to Pie Town, though, is as marketing director for Cielito Lindo Ranch, which teaches and demonstrates sustainable living practices to anyone who is interested. The ranch offers tours and information at no charge.
Donnelly is able to sustain all of these volunteer roles due to her success as a best-selling romance writer. Donnelly hasn’t always written about romance; her career as a novelist began with technical writing for computer games, after which she transitioned to horror novels. Donnelly’s romance novels are published by Regency Romances.


Elizabeth Hayward

When Elizabeth Hayward arrived in Socorro 14 years ago with her husband, she was not allowed to go to work because she is Canadian. So she went to work anyway — finding ways to help the people in the community.
Hayward jumped into the volunteer world with both feet and has since touched the lives of numerous Socorro County residents.
“I don’t believe in spending too much time at home,” she said. “With volunteering you get so much more than you give.”
She volunteered in the schools to begin with, working with teachers to help individual students with one-on-one support.
One day Hayward visited the gift shop at the hospital to shop and discovered they needed members to help. She has now been with the Socorro General Hospital Auxiliary for 11 years working at the gift shop, organizing events and supporting patients and families at the hospital.
“I enjoy the social aspect, meeting wonderful people,” she said. “We don’t expect people just to buy (at the hospital gift shop), we want them not to have to be worried while they are there.”
The gift shop, Hayward said, raises money for whatever support the hospital may need. In the past they have funded equipment for the physical therapy department and a bed in the hospice room. They also fund family movie nights in the summertime.
In the past she has served as the Auxiliary president and as such, she served on the hospital board. Currently she serves on the community relations board, a position she uses well to host the annual spring tea event and the fall Run for Life event.
According to her nomination letter Hayward has worked with her daughter in the compilation and printing of an annual recipe book and ironed all the organization’s tablecloths.
“In my eyes,” Camille Scielzi wrote, “she is a shining star because she does all these activities with humility and no expectation of thanks.”


Eileen Stringer

Eileen Stringer is a happy song for patients and coworkers at the Socorro General Medical Group.
In her shining stars nomination letter, Bob LaHue said Stringer is always willing to learn new things and tak on additional duties.
“Eileen is continually recognized by patients during patient call-backs as being a wonderful medical assistant with great communication skills, a courteous attitude and a knack for treating them with a personal touch,” LaHue said in his letter.
Stringer said she loves the health care profession. She would like to go back to school to become a nurse or a nutritionist.
“I try to be as friendly as I can because going to the doctor’s office is not fun,” she said. “I have a positive outlook.”
As a medical assistant, Stringer does not work in just one area of the clinic, she likes to float around to the different departments meeting people and taking care of whatever the doctors need.
“I treat everyone with respect and happiness,” she said. “And I try to treat everyone the same.”
xx said Stringer is always willing to learn new things. She has worked in all areas in the outpatient setting including women’s health, pediatrics, family practice and internal medicine.
Stringer said she especially enjoys the women’s clinic.
“It’s fun to see pregnant women,” she said.
Stringer also was recently recognized as the hospital’s employee of the quarter, LaHue  said.
In his letter LaHue  said Stringer volunteered to take on the additional duty to assist with the SGMG diabetic tracking system. She set up a report prioritizing patients condition severity and notifies each patient for overdue lab tests, blood pressure checks and office visits.
“Eileen has been successful in reaching out to our diabetic patients and personally encouraged them to follow up,” he said. “Eileen’s diligence and perseverance directly led to SGMS meeting our diabetic patient compliance target since January 2012, whereby vastly improving the health of the community.”
Stringer likes working on new things and learning all the time and she puts her heart into what she does.
“It’s not how many things you do, it’s how many things you do well,” she said.


Joseph Gonzales

Quietly minding his own business, Joseph Gonzales is there for people, all kinds of people.
He is there for the homeless, confused folks who mostly just need a line of communication to get themselves out of the holes they are in.
Gonzales is there to show them how to negotiate the paperwork, fill in the blanks and make the calls to the necessary agencies to find help. He takes them to the agencies where they can apply for food stamps, housing, medical help, and sits with them to help explain what is needed. He makes his celphone available to those who need to call for help.
And he gives all the credit to how his mom raised him to give back and do right, he said.
According to Jonathan Fly’s Shining Stars nomination letter Gonzales also gets food for the pets of the homeless and makes sure the pets get their shots as well.
Gonzales said his helping the homeless was precipitated when he was a college student in Albuquerque about five years ago and got an assignment to do a social project.
Not knowing what to do, he spotted the homeless Fly under a bridge of the interstate and determined to help Fly. Gonzales hasn’t stopped helping since, not only reaching out to Fly but to many others as well.
“I was able to start receiving my Social Security benefits and able to move into my first apartment and providing me with all the furniture and supplies to get started,” Fly wrote. “But now he has helped in purchasing my own place and helped me get a medical dog to help me cope with my anxiety attacks.”
Gonzales also regularly visits the Good Samaritan Center in Socorro to listen to the stories of the residents and bring them some company.


Marisa Wolfe

Marisa Wolfe has been in the Socorro area since 2000 and teaching yoga since 2005. Six and a half years ago she started her own yoga studio, Yoga del Sol.
“Ms Wolfe is a local businesswoman who has been a wonderful yoga instructor mentor to many women in this town and has facilitated creating a space of healing and hope in Lemitar through her studio,” writes Camille Scielzi in her nomination letter.
Wolfe works with kripalu yoga, which she describes as gentle and theraputic. She found a mentor when a studio opened up in her town of Canton, N.Y. in 1998.
“I thought yoga was ridiculous but it felt so good I kept going back,” she said. “Then I was totally addicted.”
She ended up here with her husband, Dylan, going to graduate school at Tech. They liked it so much, they decided to stay.
“There is nothing quite like the desert,” Wolfe said. “The sparsity makes you notice more detail.”
Wolfe built her yoga studio up from herself to having five other yoga and massage therapists available to serve the community seven days a week.
She also offers classes through Tech and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
“In my eyes,” Scielzi said, “she is the epitome of the small town entrepreneur contributing directly to her community and a prime example of supporting others through collaboration.”