Luna County may be the poorest county in New Mexico, but it could easily be acknowledged as the most generous, too

Deming Fire Department firefighters were out in full force Friday at the local Walmart Superstore collecting school supplies for needy children as part of the Deming Public Schools “Fill the Fire Engine” campaign.

“There is a great need in Luna County,” said Olivia Paez, of the DPS Title I program and social worker for the McKinney Vento Act Homeless Students program. “This is our first year hosting such an event.”

Paez said DPS partnered with Walmart to organize the school supplies collection after seeing a definite need within the community for students returning to classes with their necessary school supplies. Schools in Deming begin on Aug. 18.

“As a social worker, you see the need personally,” Paez said.”Having the school supplies drive is our way of helping students be successful.”

Paez is no stranger to fundraising. She is the main organizer for the ‘Coats for Kids’ program in Luna County in the winter. She organizes these events after seeing children many times having to go without what many take for granted. A warm coat during the winter or basic school supplies are prime examples.

Volunteer Christy Montes, who’s spouse works at Red Mountain Middle School, said she decided to join the organization to help out her community.

“This a really a great thing for the firefighters to help out local students and for Walmart to help out for the benefit of our kids. …It’s just amazing,” said Montes.

Walmart was instrumental in helping out the back-to-school drive Paez said. They lent them the use of tables and electricity to set up on the grocery side entrance of Walmart.

Paez said the staff had been very friendly and helpful the entire time they were there.

The “Fill the Fire Engine” program was scheduled to coincide with the The New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department annual New Mexico Gross Receipts Tax Holiday. Children were allowed to tour the fire truck and visit with DFD firefighters during the event. They were encouraged to try on the firemen’s suit and equipment and to have photos taken with the firefighters.

A cardboard bus was also placed at the location to accept donated school supplies.

The Tax-Free holiday began at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and ended at midnight on Sunday. During this holiday, the state suspends collecting gross receipts tax on sales of qualifying items.

Paez hoped as families were purchasing items for their children, they would help a needy child as well.

“It’s been a great turnout so far,” Paez said. “People in our community are caring and giving. We cannot thank everyone enough.”

The supplies gathered throughout the weekend will be distributed to the schools in the district. Each school administration will determine who receives the supplies on a need basis.

Elena Ruiz may be reached at 575-546-2611 (ext. 2608).