Jemez House helps rebuild lives

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Thrift shop > Opened in 1991 to support Jemez Boys Ranch

By Gina Velasquez



The Jemez House Thrift Shop in White Rock is celebrating its 45th year. It is, and has been, a valuable resource and contributor to the community. The store has always been manned by volunteers. 

The store provides a base for recycling useable goods, clothing, housewares, toys, games, books, electronics, furniture, low priced goods to Northern New Mexico, as well as providing scholarships for young people who would otherwise might not have an opportunity for advanced education. 

The thrift stores were open in 1991, to support the ranch. The Española store eventually became too costly to operate, and it was shut down in 1996. 

“The economy was getting bad and other thrift shops were opening it up,” said Nancy Nunnelly, board member of Jemez House in White Rock. 

The shop in White Rock has a rich history with the community and aiding troubled teens. It started when a man named Peter Agee and a group of parishioners formed the Jemez Boys Ranch in 1968 in Alcade. The purpose was to give wayward boys a chance for an education and help rebuild their lives. It was later moved to Embudo and closed down in 1997. 

One of those boys grew up to be the current board president, Lio Castro. He was a resident of the Jemez Boys Ranch from 1980-1984. 

“In Silver City, I got into a lot of trouble so when the courts sentenced me, I was remanded to the State of New Mexico’s Youth Division and that is how I ended up North,” he said. 

Before that, he said he was in and out of various youth centers. A therapist in Albuquerque, suggested the Jemez House program. 

“I don’t know why they chose me, but I believe God put good people in my path, so that I could succeed and move forward,” he said. 

During Castro’s time as a resident of Jemez House, he participated in the wilderness program and Upward Bound. He became board president in 2011. Castro has been married since 1983 and has three children. 

In the time that the Jemez Boys Ranch closed, the thrift shop in White Rock still was going strong so the board of directors, then run by Mary Zemach, decided to use the money coming in to grant scholarships to young people who had stayed at the group home. 

Having had to leave their troubled homes, these young people could only stay at a publicly funded group home for 90 days. Since then the youth we sponsor have come mainly from privately funded group homes. There is the New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranch in Albuquerque, The Albuquerque Christian Children’s Home and Dreamtree in Taos. 

In recent history, of the thrift shop sponsorship, nine students have graduated college. There are seven students currently being supported and two are getting straight A’s. One exceptional student who works really hard, spent her school year in China, another spent a semester in Paris. “It is fun to read the letters from these students. We have had a student graduate from Rice University with honors and one who just left the Clovis Community College,” Nunnelley said. 

“The philosophy to help students stay in school so they can pass enough classes to re-register, we will continue to support them,” Nunnelley said. 

“Our hope is that they become independent citizens, make a living wage, and are able to contribute to society.” 

Photos of the students and letters received from them are hung on the wall in the store. Castro has an associate of science degree from Highlands University in Las Vegas, in electrical technology and has worked as an electrician, when he left Jemez House after turning 18. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, also from Highlands. 

Young people are one of the top priorities of the Jemez House, but community also reigns high on the list. 

The thrift shop supports many endeavors, for example, a person comes many times a year and gathers children’s clothes to take to an orphanage in Mexico. Two people come regularly to the Lutheran Church to collect cloth, sheets and other large pieces of fabric to make sleeping bags for the homeless. 

Electronics are taken to the distribution center in Albuquerque to be recycled. Eyeglasses go to the Lion’s Club. Every month, clothing is distributed to Save the Children. 

“The board sent 4,000 bags of clothes to them last year,” Nunnelley recounted. “In fact, the year the board was counting 67 tons of goods left our county instead of going into a landfill.” 

Nunnelley and Castro both have spent as much time as they can in the shop, helping the public find what they need during rough times. 

During the evacuations for the Cerro Grande and Las Conchas fires, people were welcome to come and take what they needed free of charge and home schoolers find educational materials. 

The first week of every month, the thrift shop has a week of “Bag Days.” Customers may fill a brown grocery bag with whatever they wish and pay $5. 

The Jemez Thrift Store is located at 1300 Sherwood Blvd., in White Rock and open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to
1 p.m., Fridays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Donations are appreciated.