Chavez named Citizen of the Year


For Luz Chavez, community service has been a life worth living.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Luz Chavez was named the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year. She was also given the Lifetime of Service award. Pictured, from left, are Chamber President Jennifer Hise, Mary Lou Chavez, former chamber executive director; Luz Chavez, and Chamber Executive Director Rhona Baca Espinoza.

Chavez was named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce at its annual installation banquet Saturday night, and was also given the Lifetime of Service Award.

Chavez was born in 1930 in Pueblitos. She graduated from Pueblitos School in the eighth grade and from Belen High School in 1949. As only the second recipient of the Pilot Club of Belen’s Mother Seery Scholarship, she attended Browning Businesses College in Albuquerque.

While taking night classes, she attained her certificate of business degree, and went to work for First National Bank in Belen, where she worked for 11 years. She then was recruited to work for Rancher’s Bank in 1960, where she retired 35 years later as vice president and internal auditor.

Through the years, she attended the University of New Mexico and received certificates in accounting and computer science.

Chavez has always given back to her community, especially to Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church. She’s served on fiesta boards, cemetery boards, finance committee and others, but Catholic Daughters of America was the nearest and dearest to her heart. She is a lifetime member, and has served in every office. In 1970, she was honored at Catholic Daughter of the Year. She has also volunteered at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store for 20 years.

In 1971, she joined the Pilot Club of Belen and has served as district treasurer and every office in the club. She’s been a member for more than 20 years.

She also volunteers at the Belen Senior Center and served on ECHO, which distributes commodities to seniors once a month.

While working at Rancher’s Bank, she began her service at the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce. She was board treasurer for many years, and afterwards began volunteering and running the office under former executive directors Mary Lou Chavez and Linda Erickson.

She was the first woman elected board president in 1976, and has served as one of the judges of the Valencia County Fair Parade for the past five years.

In her spare time, Chavez is a member of Silver Sneakers and works out three times a week.

Mary Lou Chavez told the audience Saturday that while working with Luz Chavez for nine years, she “was such an asset to the chamber and to me, and through her, I learned a lot.”

Chavez, humbled by the honors, said, “I didn’t expect this award. I’d like to thank the chamber board for this honor.”

The chamber also honored Let’s Move That Food as the Service Club of the Year. The local organization held its first food distribution in June 2009, then again in December of the same year, both at Gil Sanchez Elementary School.

For the next several months, and years, they grew in volunteers and in distributions. From distributing food once a month, it grew to three times a month, totaling 15,000 pounds of food to Valencia County families.

Let’s Move That Food shares a maintenance fee with the Roadrunner Food Bank, which averages between $275 and $300 per month. In December, at Belen High School, the organization distributed more than 20,000 pounds of food to 400 families. They have served more than 5,200 families in Valencia County.

They were recognized by the State Department of Aging and Long Term Services as the Public Service Organization fro 2012.

Founders Louis Lusero and Cyndi Sluder accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

The chamber also recognized MyBank as the 2012 Member of the Year. MyBank was founded in Belen in July 1992 as The Bank of Belen. The original founders, native New Mexicans from Belen and Los Lunas, created the bank on the foundation of quality and personalized service.

The Bank of Belen changed its name to MyBank in October 2006, and continues to specialize in small business lending and deposit account services. They are the only locally-owned true community bank in this area.

“Their offices and staff are actively involved in major community events through bank sponsorships and as event volunteers,” said the night’s master of ceremonies, Paul Baca. “They also have many officers on community and non-profit association boards.”

“This is a great honor for MyBank to be chosen as Member of the Year,” said MyBank Senior Vice President Edward Archuleta. “We are very proud to be the largest community bank in central New Mexico.”

The chamber’s Amigo Award, which is given to a business recognized throughout the state and nation as presenting a positive, friendly image of the city of Belen and Valencia County, was given to Abba Technologies.

Abba Technologies President and CEO Andrew Baca accepted the award on behalf of the local company.

“Andrea, a native Belenite, who graduated from Belen High School, class of 1980, and whose family has been in Belen dating back to 1776, exemplifies all the Amigo Award celebrates,” Paul Baca said. “Abba Technologies … has been recognized and continues to achieve national and international successes while keeping strong local roots with his generous support to the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce and the greater Belen community.”

“This is truly an honor,” Andrew Baca said upon receiving the award. “Our employees come into work every day, not only as employees, but owners, and they put that extra effort even more.

“We know where our roots are, and know where we come from,” he added.

The Infinity Award, given to a business which has continued as a viable, productive part of the economic vitality of the Belen community, was given to Cemco.

“Through three generations of love, sweat and toil, the (Hise) family has developed a design and product that has stood the test of time and emerged as the leader,” Paul Baca said of the company. “Today, Cemco manufactures eight sizes of crushers and understands the science of crushing in order to customize the machine to each customer’s specific needs.”

Baca said that nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic has transformed Cemco from what started as a service and repair business into a global manufacturing company that now occupies a 144,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Belen and solves crushing challenges in 27 countries across the world.

Neil Hise is the company’s president, his wife Ty Juana is CFO and CEO, and their daughter, Jennifer, the chamber’s new president, is the Cemco’s vice president.

“God has looked out for our company for 50 years, and for our family for a lot longer than that,” Hise said.

Hise thanked Rhona Baca Espinoza, the chamber’s executive director, for “all her hard work,” and to his family and his loyal employees.

The installation banquet was held at the Holiday Express Inn in Belen.

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