This article first appeared in the Hobbs News-Sun.
We are fortunate in Lea County that when a problem occurs, there is often someone who comes to the table with solutions as well as volunteers and the commitment to see it through. Look at what happened with Project Feeding Families, an effort by the United Way of Lea County in partnership with the JF Maddox Foundation to put food in the hands of families who might be struggling during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We knew we had a problem to solve, and the folks at United Way joined together with over 16 local businesses to provide more than 15,000 meals during the course of 2 years. Then, when a nonprofit in town needed a new executive director, someone local to the area gave up her career in banking to help advocate for children, a passion she had but never previously explored. The people who stepped up to the plate in both examples exemplify what it means to be a community leader.
Lea County is not the norm when it comes to community leadership. Many rural areas like ours are struggling to find people who will take charge, have big ideas and take the time to see them through. But, we need to figure out what the next generation of leaders looks like in Lea County. Who is going to encourage citizens to take charge, lead with vision and advance a community for the better? How do we tap into the talent in our small, but mighty, community to solve problems in a big way? These are the questions the JF Maddox Foundation sought to solve when launching the Maddox Leadership Institute – a nine-month leadership training program that seeks to ensure our community’s success for generations to come. By providing opportunities to build leadership skills and deepen social networks, the Foundation can help ensure Lea County’s success. In four years, 122 future leaders in this community have been through training; many of whom, after experiencing the workshops, went on to advance their careers, take on additional volunteer opportunities and contribute to the success of Lea County.
These alumni are a powerful force in this community. Graduates have taken on leadership roles like fire chief at the City of Hobbs, superintendent at Hobbs Municipal Schools, and executive director of CTECH. Three alumni have run for public office. Two alumni have switched careers and are now leading local nonprofits. When people who have been through the Maddox Leadership Institute program talk about outcomes, they credit the leadership program for increased social and professional networking skills as well as personal understanding and drive. Because of their participation, they want to become advocates locally and throughout New Mexico.
Continued recruitment and training of new leaders is critical to a community’s success. Recruitment for the new class begins April 4, 2022, and there is excitement for the continued growth of the Maddox Leadership Institute developing more leaders for Lea County. You can visit the JF Maddox Foundation website, jfmaddox.org to learn more. We hope you will join us.
Mayra Lovas is a Senior Program Officer at the JF Maddox Foundation, a private family foundation in Lea County, New Mexico. Alongside its partners, the foundation invests in education, social services, and community development for a greater quality of life for Lea County residents.