Home News Local News Missionaries take bird sanctuary under their wing

Missionaries take bird sanctuary under their wing

The missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have decided to volunteer regularly at the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary and Nature Center are, from left, Keller Haws, Kedrin Farlee, Savanah Leavitt, Halle Holt, Kyle Waldron, Carter White, Gavin Pruett, Brendan Redd and Adam Morgan. (Submitted Photo)

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A group of Mormon missionaries serving in Roswell has chosen to volunteer at the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary and Nature Center as one of the group’s community projects, and they completed a debris cleanup of the 15-acre site on Wednesday as part of that effort.

“This is the first time to my knowledge that there has ever been a cleanup to this scale,” said Steve W. Smith, who along with his father and a family foundation, established the sanctuary for bird and nature enthusiasts.

The site, which has its entrance at 401 N. Sycamore Ave. and is next to the Spring River Corridor Trail, is now a city park, but the Smith family foundation continues to provide support for it, as well as for educational efforts related to ornithology and nature.

Smith said that quite a bit of debris collects at the sanctuary, even though individuals will pick up items here or there and the city empties the garbage cans.

“People walk through there and throw their trash and throw their plastic bottles and then the wind blows and trash comes in from all the way up from Second Street,” Smith said.

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The volunteers spent about two and a half hours Wednesday filling up bags with cardboard, paper, plastic bottles and other waste.

Smith also added the missionaries have agreed to other work in the coming weeks, including weeding near the bird blind and filling the feeders for birds.

“We try to help the community out as much as possible, and the bird sanctuary was one place we thought — and we talked to Mr. Smith about it — could use a lot of help, so we will probably make it a weekly thing now where we go and help them with any projects they need,” said Elder Kyle Waldron with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Local congregations have their church on West Country Club Road.

He said that he, six other men and two women are in Roswell now as part of their 18 months to two years of voluntary missionary work. The young adults come from California, Utah, Pennsylvania, Idaho and other states, and they travel throughout West Texas and Eastern New Mexico during their time of service. They stay in various communities, sometimes for about six months and sometimes longer, until they return to college, careers or other pursuits following their missionary service.

Waldron said the group has been advised during the coronavirus pandemic to look for outdoor projects and chose the sanctuary after looking around for possible projects on an online map. But the group also helps out at food banks, local nonprofits and people’s homes.

“Although we help with a lot of organizations, we also help people just on a one-on-one basis — if anyone needs yard work, if anyone needs help cleaning their houses, anything like that,” he said. “We just want to leave a good impression on the community here in Roswell, given that we are Christians trying to spread that love that we know is present in the community, especially at a time like this when we know a lot of people are struggling.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.