Published: 3:22 pm, Sun. Oct. 30th, 2016Updated: 3:19 pm
In October 2014, SuAnn Greenwood had just left her job of eight years at Mack Energy Corporation in order to be a stay-at-home mom for her two daughters, Hayli Marie and Kayti Jae. If she was at all worried about finding ways to keep busy, however, she didn’t have to worry for long.
“About a month later, I got a phone call saying, ‘Hey… we need you to do this,” Greenwood laughs. “So the timing was great, and it all kind of fell into place from there.”
The call was from Packs of Love founder Sarah Hendrix, who, after a year at the helm of the local nonprofit, was moving back to Carlsbad. Greenwood, who had been volunteering with the organization, was asked to take over.
That she settled seamlessly into the new role was no surprise; volunteerism has been in her blood since her youth.
“I’ve volunteered for forever,” Greenwood says. “I’m that one that just automatically raises their hand. My parents are that way, my grandparents are that way, so it just comes natural to me, I guess.”
It’s an inclination the community has recognized, as Greenwood was chosen Best Volunteer in this year’s Best of Artesia contest.
“I’m honestly humbled,” she says. “I didn’t even know that I had been nominated, and once I did, I’ll be honest, I did not vote for myself. There are just so many amazing people in this town that show up every single week to do so many different things.”
Much of Greenwood’s volunteer work is inspired by her daughters. She serves as a room mom at Yeso Elementary School as well as on the PTO, is the Box Tops for Education coordinator for Yeso, and is involved with the Artesia Girls’ Softball Association.
Greenwood also volunteers at the Eddy County Shooting Range. She feels it’s a good way to give back to the ECSR Association, which hosts Packs of Love’s biggest annual fundraiser – the Buffalo Shotgun Scramble, sponsored by Buffalo Oilfield Supply.
A heart for children is what led Greenwood to Packs of Love in 2013.
The local group meets each week to fill backpacks with food and snacks for children the Artesia Public Schools system has identified as being in need of nutritional supplementation on the weekends and over school holidays, when balanced cafeteria meals are unavailable.
Greenwood and her team of fellow volunteers meet at 11:30 a.m. each Thursday at First Baptist Church to fill the packs.
“We just follow the school calendar,” she says. “If school is in that week, we pack, and if there’s going to be a holiday, we double up. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we also do food boxes and things like that.”
Packs of Love’s efforts are entirely funded by donations, both of food and funds.
“The Buffalo Shotgun Scramble is our main fundraiser, and everything else is donations,” Greenwood says. “The Altrusa ladies had their Feed Artesia drive last week, sometimes schools or churches have food drives.
“We work with Fenn’s, shop their sale ad, and the church lets us use their facility, so the only thing that has to come out of our bank account is money for food and bags. We just get a little bit here and there from so many different places, but it works. And that comes back to the support system in this town being so amazing.”
Greenwood, who moved with her family to Artesia in first grade and has resided here since, says she is always impressed with the community’s willingness to support children.
“I love how kid-oriented we are,” she says. “And small but not too small. Where I came from in Texas, there were, like, 2,000 people, so Artesia’s kind of big by comparison. But I really just love that no matter what it is, there’s always support here for everything.”
Those interested in helping with Packs of Love are invited to simply show up to one of the group’s 11:30 a.m. Thursday packing times at First Baptist. Greenwood says that, with the assembly-line system down to a science, volunteers are generally in and out in less than an hour.
“Right now, we have it down to about 30 minutes, and we’re filling about 150 bags,” she says.
Rewards aren’t anything Greenwood is seeking in return for her volunteer efforts, but she assures anyone else considering lending a hand that they come in incredible forms regardless.
“We don’t know these kids’ situations,” she says. “I literally have a piece of paper on them. I don’t know them, so I think it’s so important that they just know there’s somebody out there who loves them and cares for them, regardless of what their situation is. There’s something out there for them.
“And you have to have helping hands to make this work. You have to have volunteers to make pretty much anything work well.”