By Alice M. Price, MVS Local Coordinator
First opening in La Jara in 1983, Mennonite Voluntary Service has been a steady presence in the San Luis Valley ever since. Originally prioritizing healthcare needs, volunteer placements soon expanded into many other areas of service, as well as social justice advocacy. As many non-profits with which MVS partners are based in nearby Alamosa, a decision to relocate the unit there was made in 2010. In conjunction with this move, the Anabaptist Fellowship of Alamosa was planted to provide, among other purposes, a spiritual home for MVSers. Six years into this transition, Alamosa MVS is thriving. The mortgage on the unit house was paid off in September 2016, with a legacy gift from Wayne and Leabell Miller, members of the local committee that first brought MVS to La Jara in the 1980’s. With 4 – 6 fulltime volunteers in each annual cohort, the impact on area non-profits and those they serve is substantial. This is especially true for volunteers who complete two years of service and/or stay on as agency staff for additional periods of time. Key areas of focus in recent years have included immigrant justice, environmental and local food initiatives, and restorative justice. Current volunteers are Eva Lapp (Center for Restorative Programs), Elsa Goossen (Immigrant Resource Center), Bryce Hostetler (Rio Grande Farm Park/Valley Roots Food Hub) and Emily Wedel (Foodbank Network of the SLV). Other recent placements have included the Rio Grande River Restoration Project and Alamosa Public Health Department.
Sadly, MVS closed several units across the country two years ago, and staffing for administration and recruitment has diminished. While this has left Alamosa as the only rural location nationally and the only MVS site in Mountain States conference, the local vision for Alamosa MVS remains strong. For now, the unique cross-cultural setting and critical social needs of the San Luis Valley, in combination with abundant outdoor recreation, still provide a draw for young service-minded Mennonites. For those of us invested long-term in this community, we hope this will remain true for many years to come.