By Leslie Radford: CNJ Staff writer
Joyce Davis’ letter underscoring the impact of Cannon Air Force Base in eastern New Mexico is currently on a postal trail to the Pentagon.
In particular, the coordinator for the Curry and Roosevelt County Habitat for Humanity hoped to point out the volunteer efforts of base personnel in the community to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which will decide the fate of the base.
Cannon was one of two Air Force bases recommended for closure by the Pentagon and local and state leaders are trying to get the BRAC Commission to reverse the decision.
About 90 percent of Habitat’s volunteers consist of base personnel, according to figures provided by the United Way of Eastern New Mexico, which supports the non-profit universal Christian housing ministry.
“I can’t speak for other non-profits, but the volunteers that come out of Cannon have been a tremendous help to Habitat For Humanity,” said Davis, who has seen the number of volunteers grow since Habitat started locally in the late 1990s. “We (Habitat for Humanity) would have grabbed them (base personnel) up earlier had we known they would have helped us take off with our projects more efficiently.”
She said base volunteers recently played a major role in finishing a house in Portales by sharing their skills and knowledge in areas ranging from carpentry to plumbing. They donated more than 4,000 hours on the last two building projects in Roosevelt County, she said.
“Without volunteers from the base, we couldn’t have got a lot of our projects done,” said Davis, who added the base’s closing would impact contributions to Habitat. The group receives annual funding from a program through the base called Combined Federal Campaign, which are donations made by individuals and organizations on Cannon’s campus.
United Way of Eastern New Mexico Executive Director Erinn Burch said the economic impact of terminating the base would cause a chain reaction, beginning with the shortage of man-power caused by the sudden decrease in the number of volunteers — 500 to 600 per year, according to United Way figures. This would likely lead to the limitation of many services and resources to the area.
“I don’t think that any other business in our area could afford to send employees to volunteer as much time as Cannon has,” Burch said. “That amount of people would be hard to replace.”
She said the local chapter is exploring its options and will hold a meeting next month to discuss recruitment of volunteers, new resources, finances and other issues if Cannon is closed.
“Right now we’re just trying to stay positive so that we’re not shocked if the closing does occur,” she said. “Cannon is such an asset to local organizations and losing them would roll back the clock on everything they have made possible.”