Non-Profit Serves International District for Almost Two Decades

Non-Profit Serves International District for Almost Two Decades

East Central Ministries has listened to and served its community by offering a wide variety of valuable assistance

East Central Ministries Works to Serve Ailing Community

Several people sort fresh produce in a large roomIt’s hard not to be inspired by a non-profit working with limited means to support an under-served community.

East Central Ministries has provided food, healthcare and development programs to the International District for almost two decades. The community development ministry started with awareness of high crime and poverty levels of the area, yet recognized the strengths of the culturally diverse community.

“Our core value is to listen to the community,” ECM’s director Jesse Harden said.

In 2001, ECM renovated an abandoned building that was being used as a drug house at 123 Vermont St. NE and opened a food co-op and youth program. Currently, the site is complete with a low-cost healthcare clinic that includes dental service, behavioral counselors and space for nutrition and exercise classes.

The co-op redistributes organic food to more than 250 people each week. ECM offers a variety of children’s classes and workshops on gang and violence prevention. Free childcare is provided to parents who participate in a volunteer program. ECM also offers paid internships for high school and college students, and a social justice class for teenagers.

One of ECM’s many endeavors include beautifying the neighborhood. From 2013 to 2015 the organization partnered with La Mesa Elementary School and La Mesa Presbyterian Church to build a neighborhood garden park at the northeast corner of Copper Avenue and Espanola Street.

For more than a decade, ECM’s health center, One Hope Centro de Vida, has served people in the community who can’t afford health insurance. Staffed by volunteer doctors and UNM medical and pharmacy students, the health center provides six medical clinics per month, weekly dental clinics and referrals to low-cost specialists. Medical staff compare prices on medicine and services for low-income patients. Staff also assist immigrants in navigating a foreign health care system.

“It helps people survive,” said Maria Tellez, One Hope’s pathway navigator. “We believe in human rights, and everyone needs access to healthcare.”

A medical student and a patient walk down a hallwayWhile One Hope provides medical service to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it, the clinic faces its own financial challenges.

The roof of the clinic caved in four or five months ago, due to water damage. Volunteers have since fixed the roof, but the facility requires continual maintenance.

Tellez said the clinic is hoping to receive donations for window blinds and updated seating for their waiting area. Walls nearby are painted with graffiti and the outside light above their door has been smashed out.

“We aren’t very fancy, but we try to do the best we can for our patients,” Tellez said.

Despite finances, the clinic has come a long way from when it first opened in September 2006.

“It started in a little room, but the community wanted more,” Clinic Director Blanca Pedigo said.

Since it opened, the clinic has expanded to a fully-supplied medical center with three exam rooms and two dental stations servicing 70 to 100 patients a week.

ECM views all its service as a partnership with the neighborhood, and they’re demonstrably grateful for the volunteers who allow them to provide services to the community. Many volunteers live nearby in the International District.

ECM sustains itself through grants and donations, but also operates a small gift shop where they sell homemade soap and honey from the beehives in their backyard. They also sell clay pots for garden irrigation, and plants from their garden. A large portion of ECM’s revenue comes from the operation of a thrift store, Common Good, at 2903 Eubank Blvd. NE.

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Sara MacNeil is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.