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Local man puts his needs aside to help others

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Enrique Moreno, director of Roswell Community Disaster Relief Services, stands with a shuttle bus that his organization purchased earlier this week. The shuttle bus was purchased with donated funds and sponsorships that Moreno received from local residents. Moreno said the bus will serve as sort of a mobile pantry for donated coats, shoes, hygiene products and other items meant for the homeless and those affected by inclement weather or structure fires. (Alex Ross Photo)

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As most people were at home enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, Enrique Moreno had spent the afternoon distributing food to people in need.

Moreno, the director of Roswell Community Disaster Relief Services, spent hours inside the idling shuttle bus parked in the parking lot near the Allsup’s on the corner of North Main Street and East Country Club Road. The bus acted as a sort of oasis from the chill of the November day.

Local residents donated portions of their Thanksgiving dinners to Moreno, so he could provide the homeless with meals. Donated food ranged from traditional Thanksgiving food items to desserts and Mexicans foods such as green chile and tortillas. Moreno later said that he served a total of 42 people.

For Moreno, helping others is not out of the ordinary. A graphic designer by trade, he spends much of his time gathering donations that he receives from local residents, and distributes them to those who have had property damaged by natural disasters, fires or who are homeless and have trouble making ends meet.

Moreno said that when people find themselves in trouble and don’t have the means to get themselves out of it, then it is the community’s role to step in.

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“It’s not about living here, going to work and paying your taxes. If you want a community, we should all live comfortably and happy,” he said.

Moreno does most of the work by himself when it comes to the distribution — whether it comes to paroling the streets to help those in need, collecting and distributing coats, hygiene products or getting people in touch with other organizations and resources.

Still, he has about a core group of 13 volunteers who help him inventory donations at a local relief pantry at First Presbyterian Church on West Second Street. He has also worked with local businesses such as Pioneer Bank and church groups.

Much of the items Moreno distributes come from in-kind donations from individuals and local small businesses.

Moreno began Roswell Community Disaster Relief Services in 2017, with little more than a tan Ford Explorer, a Facebook page and a desire to help out. He had been a firefighter with the Hagerman Volunteer Fire Department, and noticed that after a fire was extinguished, he would later wonder what would happen to the family who had lived in that house.

“So now with this service, I am able to see the other end of it,” Moreno said.

Moreno would then work with other volunteers, organizations and others in the community to offer temporary assistance to those affected, whether it be a few nights in a motel or access to basic items such as coats, clothing or hygiene items.

This past summer, when a hailstorm pounded Hagerman, Moreno worked with volunteers to help fill up sandbags, help remove tree limbs and provide construction supplies to homeowners who faced property damage as a result of the storm.

Roswell Community Disaster Relief Services has also recently branched out into helping the homeless and seniors living on fixed incomes.

He has, in his work, seen much that has stayed with him. Whether it be the woman in her 70s who was homeless and so cold that she had to stay in trash bags to feel warm, or a young boy who lacked a good pair of shoes — he has seen a lot.

However, for Moreno’s organization, distributing and storing items was sometimes a challenge. At times, the SUV along with two cargo and utility trailers he had were not enough to haul the donations he gets.

He was also using more fuel to make multiple trips, something that put a strain on his organization’s budget.

Earlier this year, he knew that he had to upgrade. He had been looking online and found a shuttle bus for sale in Albuquerque, but it soon sold. So, he decided to look further and learned of an old prison shuttle bus that was for sale in El Paso.

Moreno, though, needed to be able to raise $8,000 to buy the bus. The bus would allow him to transport larger amounts of donations quicker, serve as a place where volunteers and people being served could come to warm up and would be much more efficient.

For four days, he stayed out in his truck parked outside the Pizza Hut on North Main Street, seeking donations and sponsorships to pay for the bus. His goal was to get the $8,000 needed to purchase it, and he wouldn’t leave the parking lot until he got it.

Moreno was there with his laptop raising money through a GoFundMe account, on Facebook and in-person as people went by. Food was limited, and he added that he decided to stay in his truck — to illustrate the urgency of the need for the bus. Moreno said it was important to buy the bus before winter got underway and the weather got colder.

Little by little, he was able to get the money through donations. Others came to give him food.

The whole experience, he said, showed him just how generous Roswell can be. One woman gave him change and a young boy gave him $3 of his allowance. It was the owner of a taxidermy business in Artesia, who Moreno said provided the last $2,500 that made him reach his goal.

The whole experience, Moreno said, gave him insight into how some of those he sees on the streets live. His body was sore and after four days of sleeping in a vehicle, Moreno said he has a lot more respect for people who live in their cars, and has an idea of how tough it can be.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.