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NMSU employees forgo gift exchanges in favor of support for food pantry

A food pantry that benefits students, staff and faculty at New Mexico State University and Dona Ana Community College got an extra boost of holiday cheer this season after a give-it-forward idea from the president?s office inspired many faculty and staff members on campus to skip presents for colleagues in favor of a gift to Aggie Cupboard.

Four people with large check
New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers, left, and Executive Vice President and Provost Dan Howard, right, present a ceremonial check to Lori Martinez, second from right, an NMSU social worker and founder of the Aggie Cupboard food pantry, and Karen Schaefer, director of the NMSU Counseling Center. Carruthers and Howard encouraged the campus community to make gifts to Aggie Cupboard in lieu of holiday presents to colleagues. (NMSU photo by Charlotte Tallman)
Two women with pantry full of food
Karen Schaefer, left, director of the New Mexico State University Counseling Center, and Lori Martinez, an NMSU social worker and founder of the Aggie Cupboard food pantry, display the items collected by staff members in NMSU?s Office of University Advancement as part of the team?s holiday celebration. (NMSU photo by Charlotte Tallman)

In a November email to NMSU faculty and staff, NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers suggested that giving to Aggie Cupboard was a perfect way to show that NMSU is a caring community.

?I plan to contribute to Aggie Cupboard instead of presenting gifts to some of my colleagues and friends,? Carruthers said in the email. ?A gift on their behalf to this valuable cause is a perfect way to show them I?m thinking of them. ? Please join me this holiday season in showing the community how we Aggies care for each other in times of need.?

Aggie Cupboard is a free and private service that distributes nonperishable food to students, staff and faculty in need of emergency assistance.

Carruthers was joined by Executive Vice President and Provost Dan Howard and staff from NMSU?s Office of University Advancement in presenting some of those gifts to NMSU social worker and Aggie Cupboard founder Lori Martinez and NMSU Counseling Center Director Karen Schaefer at the advancement office?s holiday gathering Tuesday night.

Along with shelves and boxes overflowing with non-perishable food items collected by advancement staff from throughout the NMSU system, Carruthers presented Aggie Cupboard with a check for $2,750, the pantry?s largest single monetary contribution to date. The gift included contributions from Carruthers, Howard and others from across campus. A portion of the funds came from the university advancement leadership team, which ? as Carruthers put it ? lost a bet.

Vice President for University Advancement Andrea Tawney said it was really a win when she, Chief Operating Officer Tina Byford and associate vice presidents Leslie Cervantes and Terra Winter had to make good on their pledge.

?We issued a challenge during our recent Giving Tuesday fundraising event,? Tawney explained. ?If every single member of our advancement team made a gift that day, our leadership team would pledge an additional $1,000 gift to the fund they chose. I?m really proud of their enormous generosity ? they made us pay up!?

Martinez said the gifts would help sustain and grow a vital resource for the NMSU community. Students, especially, can struggle to keep up with bills and other expenses. Items like peanut butter, rice and canned veggies can help supplement their groceries and let them focus on their next exam instead of their next meal.

?It?s hard to study when you?re hungry,? Martinez said. ?When I get feedback from our clients, many of them tell me that this support helps make it possible for them to stay at NMSU and be academically successful.?

Martinez said departments across campus ? including athletics, human resources, educational services and countless other departments, student groups and organizations ? continue to respond to Carruthers? call to action with food items and funds, and Aggie Cupboard has been able to provide additional meals throughout the holiday season.

Non-perishable food items can still be dropped off during regular business hours at the NMSU Counseling Center in Garcia Annex, Room 100. The center will be closed during NMSU?s winter break, Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, and will reopen on Jan. 4. Tax-deductible monetary gifts can be made any time at giving.nmsu.edu ? just specify Aggie Cupboard as the fund for the gift.

Food is currently distributed in Garcia Annex, Room 132 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6 p.m., and anyone with a current NMSU identification card may pick up items.

In January, Aggie Cupboard will move to Regents Row, Room B114. Martinez said the new location has more space and will provide additional opportunities to expand what can be offered.

For more information about Aggie Cupboard, including volunteer opportunities, contact Martinez at mlori@nmsu.edu or 575-646-2731.