By TJ Parks
This article originally appeared in the Hobbs News-Sun.
The new year is in full swing, and as we settle in and begin to plan for 2024, we wanted to reflect on all the great things that have been accomplished in 2023. The JF Maddox Foundation has remained devoted to working collaboratively with our partners and continuing to create community connections that help generations of Lea County residents thrive.
Looking back, 2023 was an incredible year. We invested more than $8.5 million into the region and collaborated with our partners to drive change and impact our community in big ways. Arts and cultural events have proven time and time again that they unite our community, bring us together for a common purpose, and act as economic drivers for local businesses. It is a personal high point for me to see all the smiling faces, handshakes, and hugs as people come together to celebrate life in Lea County.
Last year, we invested approximately $460,000 to support arts and cultural initiatives in the area. The Foundation sponsored musical events such as the City of Lovington’s Hispanic Heritage Concert Series and the Southwest Symphony, and we supported youth participation in the performing arts through the Community Players’ Youth Performing Arts Workshop. Other projects like the Western Heritage Museum’s traveling exhibit “Amazing Pollinators” and their “Museum on Ice” engaged our community more interactively. The exhibit provided a game-based, role-play adventure experience, sharing educational and informative content about pollinators and their importance to people and the planet. We saw children in the museum engaging, learning, and excited about the museum. Then, we saw them bring their parents back for the community engagement days. The Western Heritage Museum and agencies like them remain as incredible investments in our community.
We were honored to continue our support for The Dolly Parton Imagination Library that provides a free, monthly, age-appropriate book to children ages zero to five years old residing in Lea County. Since that program started, over 32,800 free books have been distributed in Lea County.
We also invested in the preservation of historically significant infrastructure like Lovington’s Lea Theatre which will allow the theatre to move forward on much-needed renovation and refurbishment, contributing to a revitalized downtown area for the city. Soon movies and maybe even live music will find its way to the downtown asset. With the help of another grant in Lovington, the Broadband infrastructure in Lovington will be a step into the modern era and give access to people who otherwise suffered with slow internet access
The Foundation also wanted to make philanthropy more accessible to our community and highlight that when we come together to give, we can make a significant impact. A matching grant for the United Way of Lea County allowed any donation made by an individual to be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $225,000. This grant encouraged individuals to give and double their donations, making an even bigger difference for the organization.
Other investments helped meet the immediate needs of nonprofit organizations. Isaiah’s Soup Kitchen received funding to purchase freezers and an air conditioning unit and installation, giving the organization resources to better serve our community. A grant award to the New Mexico Ramp Project helped improve the accessibility of Lea County homeowners, and funding for MyPower, Inc. helped to launch a pilot boys’ mentoring program focused on helping young men successfully navigate their teen years by focusing on academic success, goal setting, and making good choices.
In addition to our grants program, the Foundation continued to support the Jack Maddox Distinguished Scholarship program which awarded one full-ride scholarship, four $20,000 scholarships, and 15 $5,000 scholarships to Lea County students; the Jack Maddox Distinguished Speaker Series which brought NBA all-star Shaquille O’Neil and six-time Olympic gold medal swimmer, Amy Van Dyken; and the Maddox Leadership Institute which launched a new initiative for alumni to further develop leadership skills and solve complex challenges for our community. This year we also launched the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading which aims to improve literacy levels in Hobbs by promoting early literacy skills and engaging community partners to work together.
We are fortunate to not only be surrounded by a great team and board of directors to help drive our mission forward but also partners who are equally committed to creating change that will have a lasting effect on generations of Lea County residents to come. No one person can be singled out because it takes each of us to make an impact, no matter how big or small. Let’s roll up our sleeves, dig deep, and see how much more we can accomplish together in 2024.
TJ Parks is the CEO of the JF Maddox Foundation, a 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