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Health Council hires first staff member

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Jennifer Smith, in middle, is the newly hired coordinator of the Chaves County Health Council. Board members are, from left, President Valerie Lopez, Secretary Maria Espinoza, Vice President Elizabeth Sanchez and Treasurer Christina Gomez. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The Chaves County Health Council has hired a local nonprofit organizer as its first paid staff member.

Members of the group voted to accept board members’ recommendation of Jennifer Smith as a part-time coordinator during a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The council also decided to provide money and assistance to two community projects.

Smith, a stay-at-home mom and one of the co-founders of the local Tessa Anderson Suicide Prevention Coalition, will work for about 20 hours a month, $15 an hour, to organize meetings, plan events, prepare reports, handle social media postings and, ultimately, apply for grants.

Smith said she has been a mother for nine years and has worked with the suicide prevention coalition for four years.

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Council member Dr. Bob Phillips of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell commented on the success of the Tessa Anderson nonprofit and its support groups before moving to accept Smith’s hiring.

“That speaks a lot to your organizational skills and your commitment to our social issues and to our communities, our families,” Phillips said.

In other actions, the group voted to pay $1,175 for half the cost of a swing set for Cumberland Park on Templeton Street in Midway near Dexter. Council members also plan to volunteer at least two days in October and November at the park to assist with the ongoing improvement effort, led by the Keep Chaves County Beautiful group.

In another vote, the council approved donating $1,000 to become a “Gold Record” sponsor of the Rock, Run ‘N Roll 1K and 5K fundraiser for the Roswell Homeless Coalition. That event is scheduled for the morning of Nov. 3 and will begin at the Enchanted Lands Park.

Council members also discussed other tentative plans for outreach events and projects in the coming months.

Funded by the New Mexico Department of Health, the Chaves County Health Council is one of about 30 active county and tribal health councils in the state. They were established by the New Mexico Legislature about 24 years ago. They are intended to identify local health needs, develop programs, projects and government policies to address community health issues, and raise additional money or resources for health and wellness initiatives in their area.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.