ENMU veterans hold coat drive

'Tis the spirit of giving, and a group of student veterans at Eastern New Mexico University say service is what they know, so this time of year is no exception.

As the temperatures drop, members of the ENMU Student Veterans Organization know that some aren't as fortunate to own warm clothes.

So they decided to hold a coat drive for area residents in Portales and Clovis as well as victims of Hurricane Sandy.

"There are a lot of people that only have a sweater," said organization President Monica Banuelos. "Nobody realizes that the area does get cold so, we just felt that coats would be a good thing to hand out during the Christmas holiday."

Banuelos served in the U.S. Coast Guard for eight years and is a native of Mexico. She wanted to team up with other veterans on campus to serve the local community.

"We were talking about other things we can do that benefit others," Banuelos said. "We wanted to do something that would benefit families locally and families in New York and New Jersey."

Banuelos said they placed two collection boxes on campus. So far, coats have been distributed to Portales City Hall, the Hartley House in Clovis and to families on the East Coast.

"Other organizations helped out a lot because they donated baby clothes and that helped out a few of the families that were at Hartley House," Banuelos said.

Banuelos was able to contact other Coast Guard members to coordinate their shipments to Hurricane Sandy victims.

The group will be collecting a second batch of coats until next Friday to send to New York.

"Our service is to the community or the public, we never think of doing anything for us," Banuelos said. "A lot of them (Hurricane Sandy victims) lost the things that they had. I've been stationed up there, I know how cold it gets. We feel that coats are necessary."

The organization's advisor and 25-year Air Force veteran Robert Elliott said this group is fairly new to ENMU's campus, so in their second year, they are trying to make their presence known.

"Part of their responsibilities is to perform service for the community, not just the local community but the community at large," Elliott said. "We're a growing group. We had quite a tough start getting the word out."

Banuelos said their members represent the branches of the U.S. military but the group is also open to all students who want to serve the community as well as support area veterans.

Banuelos' sister, Esthela Banuelos, is an ENMU staff member with the College Success Program involved in the organization.

She said the group has collected about 24 coats and is looking forward to sending off more to New York next Friday.

She hopes next semester, more students will be involved in the group's efforts to better the community.

"We need to get students involved so we can change this population and better the university," Esthela Banuelos said.

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