Highlands University Organizes Donation Drive to Support Evacuees 

Stock photo of a donations box filled with non-perishable food

The donation drive is currently seeking non-perishable food, pet food, and toiletries, among other items.

April 28, 2022

In collaboration with faculty, staff, and students, the Highlands University community has organized a donation drive to collect the most urgently needed items for evacuees of the Hermit’s Peak, Calf Canyon, and Cook’s Peak fires.  

The collection site is in the Center for Teaching Excellence, located in the Victoria Sanchez Teacher Education building across from Melody Park, and runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday, May 6. Donated items will be taken to the Calvary Church and distributed to evacuees.  

Veronica Black, president of the Staff Advisory Senate at Highlands University, said the idea for a donation drive came from collaboration between members of the staff, faculty, and student senates. Last weekend, as they learned of members of the Highlands family affected by the fire, they got together to brainstorm ways they could help.  

“It was the simplest solution but the most need—I was seeing on Facebook that food was needed, and cat food, dog food, and these things that you don’t really think about when you’re evacuating your home,” said Black. “We felt like it was very doable for our community.”   

Jennifer Lindline, secretary for the Faculty Senate, acknowledged that what evacuees often need most is money. She said in her research of other fires, like the 2018 Camp Fire in California, she discovered that people donated so much that the donations became a “disaster within a disaster.” But by focusing on donations of new, day-to-day necessities, she believes the donation drive can help evacuees in the short term.  

“I like the idea of focusing on the toiletries, the energy drinks, and the incidentals that are so key when you’re in a shelter or in a displaced situation,” said Lindline. “Let’s focus on the donations that are emergency-type items that are going to help people get through these beginning days.” 

Lindline said working in collaboration has given them all a sense of purpose in creating a strong resource.  

“Everybody’s hearts are broken, and everybody’s minds are heavy with wanting to help and concern for our students, faculty and staff, friends who are impacted by the immediate displacements and the actual loss of homes,” said Lindline.   

Black said they created the donation drive with the intention of collecting specific items that are most needed right now. Currently, needed items include:  

  • Socks and underwear (all sizes) 
  • Diapers and Depends (all sizes) 
  • Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and other toiletries 
  • Toilet paper 
  • Small bottles of Tylenol, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, allergy medicine 
  • Feminine products, bras, breast pumps, nursing pads 
  • Baby formula, baby food, baby wipes, baby soap and lotion 
  • Combs and brushes 
  • Laundry detergent and Lysol spray and wipes 
  • Cereal and individual milk cartons 
  • Non-perishable foods 
  • Gatorade/Powerade (sugar-free and regular) Capri Sun and water 
  • Dish soap 
  • Disposable bowls, plastic cutlery, foil, paper towel rolls 
  • Dog and cat food 
  • Reusable tote bags 

For questions about location or needs, contact Veronica Black at Veronica@nmhu.edu or 505-454-3070. The list will be updated regularly to reflect any changing needs and can be found online at https://www.nmhu.edu/hermit/#Donations. The website also lists verified organizations taking monetary donations.  

According to Black, the Calvary Church is looking for volunteers to help organize all the donated items that roll in. Although the church had many volunteers over the weekend, the help has thinned out during the week.  

Daniel Chadborn, vice chair of the Faculty Senate, said he knows needs will keep evolving.  

“I know that there are some faculty who are also impacted, along with students and staff,” said Chadborn. “Hopefully we’ll have some more feedback from faculty, and someone may have more ideas about how to help.”  

President for the Student Senate, Karla Espinoza, said the student group is also working with the student body to pitch in.  

“We have arranged our budget and are drafting legislation to utilize our funds to purchase items to donate,” said Espinoza.  

“Things change and we can adapt if need be,” said Black. “The more information we receive, the more things will change. What we need is people to come out and help, donate time, and volunteer.”  

When the fire began the emergency operations command team at New Mexico Highlands University began working with local, county, state, and federal organizations and agencies to provide support for evacuees as needed. Highlands University is currently housing employees of the university, as well as many police officers, and the university remains prepared to house more evacuees as called upon to do so.  

Denise Montoya, incident commander for the Highlands University command team, emphasized the importance of the university’s efforts in assisting with the fire efforts.  

“I want to thank the emergency operation command team for tirelessly working with our community partners, including local, state, and federal government officials and the Red Cross to provide support to our community in need,” said Montoya.