We all should be proud

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This is a very special issue to the News-Bulletin, and for citizens of Valencia County. It’s the final of four Locals editions, culminating with the naming of this year’s Citizen of the Year and Unsung Heroes.
This year, like most, we received many nominations for people who make a difference in the community — not for the glory, the recognition or for an award, but simply because they want to give of themselves and try to help those in need.
Our 2012 Citizen of the Year is someone with a passion for his community. Jim Lane, of Meadow Lake, has worked tirelessly for several years to bring back the glory of the area by leading the charge to revitalize the past and rebuild the future of what was once Meadow Lake.
He, along with others, formed the Meadow Lake Parks Area Association in an attempt to transform the 35-acre area into a park, complete with four ponds and trails. The work, although still continuing, is an effort worth recognition.
Our 2012 Unsung Heroes are people in our county who volunteer their time and their hearts for the betterment of their neighbors and their community.
Cecilia “CeCe” Aragon and Patti Bucklew are two of many volunteers with the Belen Art League. They’ve organized the league’s annual yard sales and have spearheaded the group’s summer programs for our youth.
Shirley Blackwell is passionate about many things, but her love of poetry and poets is evident in her work. As founder and former chairwoman of the Rio Grande Valencia Poets chapter, and now president of the New Mexico State Poetry Society, she has led the charge in promoting poetry across the state.
Cindy Clark is a relentless volunteer. If there’s a neighborhood cleanup, she’s there; if there’s a blood drive to organize, she’s the one to call. She’s always there for her community.
Linda Erickson has a big heart, and for the young girls in the community, they know that she’s there for them. She builds them up, teaches them life-lessons and makes sure they know that they are special.
For Candice Johnston, volunteering is her second nature. This Los Lunas teenager collects and gives away almost anything she can get her hands on, from shampoo to baby formula. She is also a friend of law enforcement, donating her time and talents advocating against drunk driving.
Gene Kastelic knows how to get things done, and with a lot of hard work, and help, he was able to make sure Los Lunas High School had a premier soccer complex — the Volunteer Fields. With a little bit of know how and a lot of heart, Kastelic helped to build the two-field complex.
Gillis Mullins has been described as a “veteran’s veteran.” As post commander of the Belen VFW Post 2387, he has worked hard for his fellow veterans, while teaching the community the value of the flag.
John Michael Nagy, a Los Lunas teenager, was set on what he wanted to do with prize money he won for his grand champion goat. He donated all his proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Teresa Romero is like most moms. She is there for her children whenever they need her. But unlike most parents, she has given countless hours of volunteer time to Peralta Elementary and the Little League.
For Rebecca Romine, who volunteers at CareNet and with the Christian Motorcycle Association, her open-heart surgery couldn’t stop this woman from making sure those in need wouldn’t go without.
Jim Schnitzler, a man of action, may be retired, but his energy for helping others seems never to run out of steam. His love of running has led him to help organize several charity runs, including the annual Wounded Warrior Project Run in Los Lunas, and more recently, the “Jog for Joy” for La Vida Felicidad.
We congratulate all these men and women for their hard work and their caring nature. Without people like these, Valencia County wouldn’t be the great place it is.
Over the years, we have honored hundreds of citizens who make a daily difference in the lives of our community. There are many more who go unnoticed and unrecognized. But we want to thank each and every one of you for your compassion and determination in making Valencia County a place we all can be proud of.