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The Starting Line: Neighbors helping neighbors

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Molly Boyles and Patricia Walker founded The Starting Line to assist women entering or re-entering the workforce. (Amy Lignor Photo)

By Amy Lignor
Special to the Daily Record

Created not long ago — with the hard work of Molly Boyles, Patricia Walker and a slew of volunteers — The Starting Line is a success that keeps growing with each year in existence.

This nonprofit not only supports women by providing them with a wardrobe, hair and make-up styling that will help them look professional for interviews they’re going on to enter or re-enter the workforce — they also provide women education on creating resumes and help them practice and hone interview skills, so they can land that perfect job.

Molly — who also owns Once Again Consignment & Resale on North Main Street in Roswell — explains the aim of the organization.

“Originally, we wanted to set up a network that would help prospective workers obtain employment, begin their professional advancement and become financially independent,” she said.

Patricia “Pat” Walker is a woman whose passion to help others comes out the moment she begins to talk.

“Every year, 50 women and some men have been helped by The Starting Line, but our focus is to try to reach 100. We’re always working to achieve this goal, and the community and its citizens are always behind us.”

Molly, past president of MainStreet Roswell, along with a great many others, helped revive the downtown area, and she was recently bestowed the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award for all her work. When asked how The Starting Line first began, Molly said it was “when we found that the community didn’t have a situation or place in town for women to go where they could be supplied with the information and clothing they needed to get an appropriate interview.

“Poverty is an issue here,” she continued. “There are also a lot of single women with children. They are the head of the household, and want to be able to support their kids, so they concentrate on getting back into the workforce to do just that.”

In addition, many of the people the nonprofit has helped have come out of incarceration, and a great number of citizens volunteer their time and specific skill-sets to help these women move forward in life.

Pat has lived in this community for 52 years and worked as a dental hygienist for her husband, who is now retired.

“But past clients still want me to clean their teeth for them,” she laughs.

Molly grew up in El Paso and moved to the Hondo Valley to a family ranch. When her kids were at the age to start school, however, she did what many of the ranching wives did, and moved to town. She said, “It was going to be heck to try to school kids out at the ranch; plus, I’m not that good of a cowgirl.” (Although Pat is quick to state Molly received more than her share of trophies).

Pat said of the community, “If there’s a need or a crisis, people are there when it comes to Roswell. If they don’t have money, they donate their time and work hard to help.”

Pat says they are always looking for donations of professional clothing (i.e.: blouses, slacks) and adds that the clothing being “gently used” is a necessity. Even accessories, such as jewelry, scarves and handbags are always a plus.

The organization can be reached by calling 575-347-1407 or emailing thestartinglineroswell@gmail.com.

When it comes to locations, Pat explained: “A year ago, we became affiliated with the Assistance League of Chaves County and their thrift shop; they now have an area designated ‘Clothes for Careers.’ The other is set up at ENMU where a room was donated for the nonprofit to use for clothing and accessories.”

They have also helped those in the Job Corp program, which was set up for people to learn a trade, earn a high school diploma, and receive the opportunity to complete a college certificate.

“Some of them, and kids leaving the New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Program, need clothes to go back home (and) to look for a job. They’ve been trained with a skill, so they have that education, and we help make them look appropriate for those interviews they will go on.”

All of this began with a small gift from The Women’s Project, a funding committee of the United Way of Chaves County. Because of the giving individuals of the community, more than half of that original set-up money is still there.

With each client being a referral, vetted through another organization (i.e.: local churches, Angel’s House, etc.) the need is always there and Pat and Molly are happy to give shout-outs to some truly great corporations who help. For instance, Pat stated, “Three clients just last year needed non-skid shoes because they would be doing restaurant work, so I took them to Shoe Dept. Encore. Cato’s has also been seriously amazing.”

Molly agreed, “Plus-size clothing is hard to find and Cato’s has been a godsend. Very professional clothing in the plus sizes, they have been extremely gracious.”

Pat wants those out there in need to understand that The Starting Line is “here to help your self-esteem,” she said. “We’ve all been there, and I see ourselves as role-models to help others.”

Molly added that the organization and their work is about “contributing to the community.”