Armijo Neighborhood Association

Clara Peña, President

Contact Clara


55 Reading National Geographic for Armijo Elem. Students

Neighborhood clean-ups

National Night-Out

River, Arenal, Goff (Sunset/Cottonwood/Nashville), Bridge

Armijo Plans
    Big Night Out

    The Armijo Neighborhood Association will hold its National Neighborhood Night Out festivities at 710 Isleta SW from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
    Clara Peña, president of the Armijo Neighborhood Association, said there will be a kids fun jump, food and games for everyone.
    Members of the county's law enforcement and firefighters will be on hand to greet residents.
    The celebration is part of several planned for the South Valley and the city, including at Valley Gardens, Alamosa and the Atrisco communities.
    The celebration location is south of Nashville off of Isleta.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Church's Good Deed Repaid Many Times

By Patrick Dunn
For the Journal
    Amidst his other lessons, the Rev. M.D. Smith has taught the members of Macedonia Baptist Church to be good neighbors and shine a light in their community. Now, Smith and the congregation are receiving some neighborly treatment from groups that do not even live in the neighborhood.
    The Armijo Neighborhood Association, with help from the Albuquerque Partnership, has embarked on a mission to assist the church on a number of improvement projects. Smith has seen donations of time and resources transform parts of his church.
    "I can't even express how grateful we are," Smith said.
    Members from the neighborhood association and representatives from the partnership have completely refurbished Macedonia's computer lab. Plus, Clara Peña, president of the association, is spearheading efforts to enhance the church preschool and library.
    The work at Macedonia is just one of many projects her group embarks on annually. Peña is motivated by knowing the efforts at the church may lead to a better learning environment for the children there.
    "I believe it is extremely important to teach people. And I believe if you teach people, it becomes a domino effect and they will educate others," Peña said.
Returning a favor
    Peña and other leaders in the association decided to make Macedonia Baptist one of their community projects. Some of the members have relatives who go to the church, and Peña was impressed with how Smith had helped them at one time.
    "They loaned us their building at no cost to do an education conference," she said. "I felt it was a nice and generous thing to do."
    Then, while at the church, Peña spent time talking to some of the children and asked them what they did for entertainment there.
    "They showed me the movies they watched but said they were tired of watching the same ones," Peña said. "They also mentioned how they wanted more computers."
    The Armijo association is under the wing of the Albuquerque Partnership, an organization that includes individuals, neighborhood associations and multiple city agencies. The partnership contributes resources and volunteers to projects that promote community development and education, with the ultimate goal of protecting young people from at-risk behaviors.
    "They use their funding in areas they think are in the most need," Peña said.
    The two groups combined to begin work at Macedonia Baptist.
    "(Both groups) came in and met with us and saw our computer lab," Smith said. "They saw five old, raggedy computers. I told them the goals I had for the lab, and they said they'd look and see what they could do to help."
Help arrives
    Help came in a big way. New carpet, paint and window protection were added. And those five "raggedy" computers have turned into seven newer computers, networked together, with Internet access, loaded with the latest software and learning tools.
    "It's really state-of-the-art," Smith said. "They didn't spare any pain. It's unbelievable how helpful it is for the children."
    In addition, children can sit at new computer desks in new chairs, and get help from a volunteer who spends time four days a week teaching computer skills.
    "They were really in need. And one thing we really stress in our neighborhood is education," Peña said. "We just think it makes for a better community."
    Education is important to the Armijo Neighborhood Association, but members have extended their passion for the subject by going outside of their South Valley neighborhood. Besides working on the computer lab, Peña has placed notices in newspapers, given fliers to businesses and distributed fliers throughout the Armijo neighborhood asking for donations to help Macedonia Baptist, which is part of the South Broadway Neighborhood Association.
    Peña hopes to collect VHS movies suitable for children and Jump Start software to help the church's preschool and library.
    Over time, Smith has overseen the growth of the library, which contains books, educational and interactive games and a reference section. Although it serves a good purpose, Smith wants to do more with it. However, he admits that living in a lower-income area necessitates relying on donations much more than other sources of income. Peña hopes to deliver up to 50 movies and additional software to the church.
A preschool in need
    Donations of supplies and equipment are also being accepted for Macedonia's preschool, which serves children 2-5 years of age, five days a week.
    "We've had the preschool for 14 years, but we're still needing equipment, supplies, volunteers to teach and read," Smith said. "It operates well, but we want it to operate more sufficiently. It's time to take another step."
    Eventually, Smith hopes to teach grades through middle school and transform the operation into a charter school. Afterschool programs already exist for elementary and middle school students.
    Smith has emphasized offering programs for children at the church during his 15 years there. A summer-long recreation program is also held every year, and every Saturday, organizations such as the Boys Club come to the church and interact with children. Smith knows the importance these programs have in the life of children in the South Broadway area. He was a child there, too.
    "I was a member of Macedonia Baptist when I was 7 years old," he said. "It was my home church when I was a little boy. I was raised down there."
    As it has been part of his history, now Smith will commemorate the church's history. July 4 of this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the church.
    "When they started this, they met in a little house," Smith said. "Now, we own the whole block."
'A very caring church'
    Smith describes Macedonia Baptist as "a very caring church." He sees it as a youth-oriented church that is concerned about people knowing Christ but is also filled with people who really care about people— and their children.
    Now, Smith has seen in a tangible way how people who do not even attend his church care about people, too. To him, their contributions are large.
    To Peña, her efforts and the efforts of the Armijo Neighborhood Association and the Albuquerque Partnership are simple. And her efforts are not finished. Plans are being made to work on a playground later this year.
    "What we've done is nothing big," she said. "We're just a number of hands out there working together."

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Armijo Students Thank Sponsors for Magazine

By Barbara Armijo
Journal Staff Writer
    Children at Armijo Elementary School have been receiving National Geographic for Kids magazine for the past six years.
    To them it didn't matter how the magazines arrived in their classrooms. All they knew was they were reading and learning about animals in Africa, jungle rainforests and children in China, and hundreds of other interesting topics throughout the school year.
    Last Thursday, students found out who had been paying the bills for 40 subscriptions to the magazine. Students thanked those responsible for their gift of reading.
    Fifth-graders at Armijo gathered for a recognition ceremony where they handed out thank-yous to the Armijo Neighborhood Association, Westland Development Corporation, the Alburquerque Partnership and the G.I. Forum, and local businessman Harold Davis.
    Clara Peña, president of the Armijo Neighborhood Association, said without the cooperation of the businesses and agencies, children at Armijo would not have access to such a quality learning magazine.
    "It started with the Alburquerque Partnership six years ago," she said. "They helped us pay for the subscriptions, and the teachers really appreciated the magazines."
    Juan Larrañaga of the Alburquerque Partnership told the students how he loved to read and how it helped him get to college.
    "It's important for you guys to read," he said. "And parents, you should read to your kids and have them read to you. These are great magazines, and we hope the students are reading as much as they can."
    Barbara Page, chief executive officer of Westland, told the students her story of growing up in the South Valley, just like them.
    "And we spoke Spanish as well as English," she said, asking the bilingual students to raise their hands.
    "That's good, really good to speak both languages and do it well," Page said. "Please keep working hard. There are lots of lazy people out there in the world. Work hard, keep speaking Spanish, and you can succeed."
    Davis said learning is the key to their futures.
    "Your main job in life right now is to make your parents proud," he said. "Learning how to read and write and do math are the ways you are going to make them proud."
    Louis Telles of the G.I. Forum told the students about how important reading is, especially in the military.
    "Education is our freedom," he said. "And freedom is everybody's business. The world is a big place, and without education, you won't get out there to be a part of it and see it."
    Students Jesus Bustillos, Chris Schraeder and Cody Duarte were among those who made thank-you cards to give the donors.
    "Thank you for the magazines and thank you for thinking of Armijo," Bustillos said as he read the card to the guests.
    For more information on how you can help donate magazines to area schools, contact each school and ask for the literacy specialists or principals.
    Fifth-grade teacher Rose Randall also thanked everyone, especially Peña, for making the magazines available to her and the other fifth-grade teachers at Armijo.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Isleta Median Will Be Removed

By Barbara Armijo
Journal Staff Writer
    Two South Valley businesses will get a median removed from Isleta Boulevard, ending a yearlong battle with Bernalillo County over whether the median was a traffic hindrance or not.
    Dale Kleinsmith, an engineer for the county's Public Works Division, said he has sent a proposal to business owners who have objected to the median, which was built as part of the Isleta Phase I construction project last year. The proposal outlines how the median will be removed and what will replace it.
    While the median, at the 400 block of Isleta just south of Bridge Street, was landscaped, owners of Los Compadres and the Dairy Queen have said it prevented customers from easily entering and exiting their businesses.
    County officials have said the median was needed because it prevented cars from passing in a no-passing zone on Isleta and that it slows traffic.
    The county held two meetings with the owners over the last several months, and Kleinsmith said after it was evaluated, the median should be removed.
    "We did see some problems with traffic behaviors," he said. "The business owners have been given the proposal, but we haven't heard back from them."
    Clara Peña, president of the Armijo Neighborhood Association, said she was helping the business owners in their negotiations with the county to get the median removed.
    "We have the proposal, and we are certainly pleased that they are removing the median," she said. "When the two business owners have a chance to study the proposal about the new configuration of the turning lanes, we will not hesitate to get back to the county. There may be some minor changes, but I think this is a good solution to the problem."
    Judy Garcia, owner of the Dairy Queen, and Janice Martinez, owner of Los Compadres, said Wednesday they are reviewing the proposal and will give a response to the county before the end of the week.
    In the proposal, the county agrees to take the median out and replace it with a "Qwik Kurb," a tubular traffic turn bay that is in an "S" configuration that allows for back-to-back turn bays.
    Kleinsmith said the new "S" design will provide positive guidance for the turning movements of traffic. It also will virtually eliminate a traffic hassle the owners said was caused by the old median— U-turns.
    The new median is about 25-feet long and allows for cars making a left turn into the businesses to have a place to wait that is not in a traffic lane.
    Kleinsmith said removing the old median, including the curb, gutter and landscaping, is costly, though he said he did not know how much it would cost.
    "There is also a cost to the new Qwik Kurb," he said. "It's not cheap."

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Urban Plaza Has Name Changed

By Barbara Armijo
Journal Staff Writer
    "Dead Man's Curve is dead," Bernalillo County Commissioner Steve Gallegos said Tuesday following a county zoning meeting.
    The commission unanimously approved a name change for a small park in the South Valley— from Urban Plaza to Armijo Park.
    Before the area was called Urban Plaza, the curve at Isleta south of Bridge and north of Arenal, was called Dead Man's Curve by South Valley residents. The Isleta Boulevard widening project, which was finished last year, made the curve safer and established the small park.
    Dead Man's Curve got the name because it was where numerous people had been killed in automobile, motorcycle and pedestrian accidents, Gallegos said.
    "We've made Isleta, and especially at the curve, a safer environment," Gallegos said Tuesday.
    Phase I of the Isleta project, which was completed in August, brought about a less dangerous curve. It also included the construction of a small, grassy park with a plaza and shade cover where the curved road once was. There is still a bend in the road, but it is less severe and there is a stop light that slows traffic.
    When the park was dedicated last year, residents received invitations to the dedication of "Urban Plaza."
    Clara Peña, president of the Armijo Neighborhood Association, said almost immediately South Valley residents started calling her to complain about the name.
    "I guess a lot of them thought I came up with the name," she said. "I'm not even sure who in the county came up with the name, but that was one of those things where, we had a park, we had to name it something."
    So for the past year, the association has been figuring out a way to get the park renamed something more appropriate.
    "This area has been a community since 1692," Peña said. "When we started researching the history, and there are many people who live here who know it very well, there was always a group of names that would come up. The Armijos, the families of the Armijos, they were strong here in this community."
    Tina Armijo de Garcia, a 55-year resident of the South Valley, attended Tuesday's zoning meeting and applauded when the name change was completed.
    "I'm 70 years old and there were times I didn't think I would live long enough to see Isleta improved," she said. "And now it looks like, the good Lord willing, I will be around to see the curve become a park with the name of one of our ancestral families. I'm glad in my lifetime I've seen it."
    Peña said she will be enlisting the help of Ramón Herrera, a resident who is knowledgeable in local history, especially the South Valley's history.
    "I think that renaming the park is a nice start," Peña said. "But there also has to be a way to tell people about the history of the area so that it is preserved for future generations."
    The county, Peña and the neighborhood association are planning a community day to officially mark the park's name change. The date hasn't been finalized.
    Peña said two Armijo Neighborhood residents, Manuel Sanchez and Harry Griego, have donated their time to make a large wrought iron frame for a sign that will be erected at the park.
    The Albuquerque Partnership, which works with neighborhoods and residents on community-based improvements, donated the material to make the frame, Peña said.
    Families are going to play a large role in the creation of the sign and the plans at the park, she said. She is asking for anyone who has photos or information to contribute for the historical background of the area to contact her at 877-7484.
    "What we want to happen is that the park will be a nice place to be at and where there is an educational component for everyone to read and understand," Peña said.
    Dolores Herrera, who was also born and raised in the area, said she attended the Old Armijo School, which is across from the park.
    "We have fond memories of this neighborhood," she said.
    Herrera said she also wanted to thank Peña and the neighborhood association for not settling with the Urban Plaza name.
    "This is a lesson in civics for a lot of people," she said. "The name change might not be a big deal to a lot of people, but to residents who appreciate our heritage it is very important. The grassroots leadership of Clara and the people in the valley made this a positive thing."

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Anti-Crime Program Gets Going

By Barbara Armijo
Journal Staff Writer
    With four months to accomplish some goals, a group of West Side and South Valley residents geared up for what they hope will be crime prevention success stories in their neighborhoods.
    The West Side/South Valley Weed and Seed steering committee met Wednesday at Alamosa Community Center to implement what is expected to be one of the largest initiatives of its kind in Albuquerque. Weed and Seed is a U.S. Department of Justice community based initiative that combats violent crime, drug abuse and gang activity in certain neighborhoods across the country.
    The West Side/South Valley program got the OK earlier this year, and was among 300 other communities to receive more than $175,000 from the Justice department to start the program.
    The federal money has been slow in arriving, and in order to meet guidelines, the West Side/South Valley Weed and Seed program must establish itself this year and get going before September.
    "We're going to hit the ground running," Dolores Herrera said.
    Herrera was introduced as the program's coordinator.
    "I'm basically an instrument in this program," she said. "The people who live, work, play in these neighborhoods are the ones that are going to make this program succeed in the community. We all want to make our world better and now we're going to go out and get it done."
    However, not everyone was supportive of Herrera being hired. Some members of the steering committee were disappointed that the city handled the hiring without their involvement.
    "And it's nothing against Ms. Herrera," said Louie Tafoya, president of the West Mesa Neighborhood Association. "It's just that we on the steering committee should have been involved in the hiring process. In the future, we expect that our involvement with the committees will be taken very seriously by the city. I know I'm not the only one just a little disappointed with how this was done."
    Herrera will receive a $35,340 annual salary as the program coordinator, according to the group's budget worksheet, which was presented at the meeting.
    Herrera said she has more than 30 years of community organizing experience when it comes to overseeing a program such as Weed and Seed.
    "Working with the steering committee and seeing the plans they have set up, I think we are going to be in a good position to really make a difference," she said.
    The committee will first be setting up groups to handle various tasks to implement the program.
    The Weed and Seed strategy is a two-pronged approach to crime control and prevention.
    Law enforcement, including both Albuquerque Police Department officers and Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputies, work with prosecutors and community members to "weed out" criminals from the target areas.
    The "seeding" is a plan to put in place crime prevention programs, intervention, treatment and neighborhood revitalization to the area.
    The neighborhoods being targeted for the program border Rio Grande on the east and New Coors Boulevard on the west. The Northern boundary is Avalon Road, to Yucca Avenue, north to Bluewater Avenue and east to the Rio Grande. The southern boundary is Hardy Avenues SW, and west to Atrisco, north to Bridge SW.
    "My hope is that all the neighborhoods in the target area are treated fairly and equally," said Clara Peña, president of the Armijo Neighborhood Association. She is also a member of the Weed and Seed steering committee.
    The committee will meet again in June and will be voting on officers and deciding how to organize subcommittees. On Wednesday the group approved a $225,000 budget for next year's program.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Curve Turns Into History

    EDITORIAL: Finally, the curve itself is a thing of the past. It was straightened in the Isleta Boulevard widening project last year, and a small, grassy park with a plaza and shade cover now stands where the curve had been.
    It is fitting that the Bernalillo County Commission would seal the curve's demise by giving the park a new name. In approving the name Armijo Park, the commission honors the history of what has been a community since 1692— and at the same time signals a new era.
    Last year, residents complained when they learned the park was to be dedicated as "Urban Plaza." To their credit, members of the Armijo Neighborhood Association did research to come up with something more appropriate. As association president Clara Peña says, Armijo was one of the area family names that kept popping up.
    Now, the goal of residents is to tell others about the area's history. Two Armijo neighborhood residents, Manuel Sanchez and Harry Griego, have offered to make a large wrought-iron frame for a sign to be erected at the park; the Albuquerque Partnership has donated the material.
    Families are being asked to contact Peña to contribute information or photographs.
    Done right, their efforts will ensure the neighborhood not only has a park, but a portal that honors history by acquainting residents, future generations and visitors with the past.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Isleta Blvd. Phase I Work Continues

By Barbara Armijo
Journal Staff Writer
    Like new car owners who want to make the most of extended warranties, South Valley residents are taking a close look at the $7 million first phase of Isleta Boulevard widening project.
    Star Paving, prime contractor for Isleta Phase I, had a one-year warranty for the roadwork, landscaping, curb and gutter for the project.
    That warranty was up last August. But before the county will sign off on the project, officials have identified several fixes that need to be made.
    The road improvement project focused on Isleta between Bridge and Arenal. It included widening the road and installing storm drainage systems, sidewalks, street lighting, bike lanes and landscaping.
    The second phase is expected to begin in 2005 and be completed in 2007. It will widen and reconstruct Isleta from Arenal south to Rio Bravo.
    Phase I took more than a year to complete and was finished in August 2003.
    "The standard one-year warranty was built into the contract," Dale Kleinsmith, county project engineer, said. "That was for the entire project."
    Kleinsmith said landscaping work has dragged on, however.
    "We haven't closed out the contract with the prime contractor," he said. "So, really, as far as the roadway portion— pavement, curb and gutters, there are still a few items that will be fixed under the warranty."
    Liz Hamm, county spokeswoman, said it is not unusual for follow-up work to take place on road projects.
    "Sometimes the repairs are because of things outside the control of the contractor, such as when weather causes damage," she said. "Another issue contractors also have to deal with is vandalism."
    Kleinsmith said the county would like the one-year warranty for the landscaping to begin sometime next year, when the county is sure the plants have rooted.
    "The county is taking the stance that the landscaping warranty hasn't even started yet," he said. "So many of the plants have been replaced recently and those need time to establish."
    He said the county will make sure there is a warranty to cover the landscaping.
    Clara Peña, president of the Armijo Neighborhood Association, said she and other residents in the area have pointed out several problems with the work on Isleta.
    "Some of the sidewalks were buckling and many of the plants were dead or dying," she said. "We just want to make sure the county is aware of these before they close out their contract with Star Paving."
    Kleinsmith said the contractor is doing a number of things now on Isleta, including some sidewalk repairs.
    "There is more to do," he said. "But there are not very many things to do. We took notice of these fixes before the August expiration."
    One of the most extensive repairs on the first phase was to remove a median in the 400 block of Isleta.
    The landscaped median, in front of Los Compadres and the Dairy Queen, were removed after the business owners said it prevented customers from easily entering and exiting their businesses.
    The county had said the median was needed because it prevented cars from passing in a no-passing zone on Isleta and that it slowed traffic. But after several meetings, a compromise was reached.
    The county tore out the old median and replaced it with a "Qwik Kurb," a tubular traffic turn bay that is in an "S" configuration that allows for back-to-back turn bays.
    The new median is about 25-feet long and allows for cars making a left turn into the businesses to have a place to wait that is not in a traffic lane.

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