By Raeley Youngs
Hunger and poverty remain a huge societal issue in New Mexico. According to The Storehouse, New Mexico’s largest food pantry, the state ranks among the worst for food insecurity.
“Nearly 20 percent of New Mexicans wonder where their next meal will come from,” says Storehouse Marketing & Communications representative Jill Beets, “and 1 in 4 children do not have enough to eat. This statistic has worsened to 1 in 3 during the pandemic.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 11.1 percent of American households experienced hunger in 2019, and New Mexico ranked within the top 10 states with the highest percentage of those who faced this challenge. The effects of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns only exacerbated the issue for the entire country.
It’s a challenge in the Albuquerque community that T-Mobile’s local Menaul Customer Experience Center has taken head on.
“We try to select organizations that roll up to DE&I, and we want to be well-rounded in the organizations we choose so we can make the biggest impact across the community,” said Rafaela Solano, a Customer Experience Center senior assistant.
Led by its Community Investment Committee, the team volunteers for and donates to various causes in the Albuquerque area, including women’s shelters, youth shelters, organizations to support military families — and, of course, food pantries. They’ve supported The Storehouse for several years with various tasks.
“T-Mobile employees became a regular fixture at the Storehouse, sorting food, pushing full grocery carts and helping food pantry clients,” says Jill Beets.
The Storehouse provides food for 45,000 hungry New Mexicans annually and approximately 10,000 of the clients are children, but their on-site parking lot was challenging for workers to cart food to vehicles and unsafe for seniors, disabled vets, parents with strollers and people with mobility issues who come to the Storehouse pantry for food. It may not seem like a parking lot should cause such a problem, but it was becoming a barrier to those most in need of their services.
“One of the things that drive which organization we participate with is focusing on what is most vulnerable in our community and where the greatest need is, such as with homelessness, hunger or domestic violence. Those are the ones we want to help,” said Mona Otero, a senior manager in human resources.
So, the Menaul team sparked the “Pave the Way” campaign to create a better experience for everyone involved, which resulted in a newly paved parking lot, making The Storehouse more accessible (and safer) for all.
To fund the new parking lot, the team utilized resources from the T-Mobile Foundation, which supports a strategic group of carefully selected national charities that are making an impact in areas such as youth development, DE&I, as well as disaster relief and response. This is done most notably with the help of the employee matching program, in which the T-Mobile Foundation donates $10 per hour volunteered with eligible organizations. Plus, during Giving Season (near the end of each calendar year around Giving Tuesday), every employee is given a donation credit to put toward an organization of their choice via an internal employee giving portal. And when that all comes together with the team, it adds up.
Between Giving Season funding, volunteer matching and additional monetary donations, the Menaul team raised over $13,500 for The Storehouse — one of the many reasons they’re now being dubbed Team PhenoMenaul.
“The team at T-Mobile really listened when we expressed the true needs of the food pantry,” says Storehouse’s Jill Beets. “Though a parking lot is not the most glamorous of projects, they volunteered thousands of hours to make sure the repairs could be done. The Storehouse team and our clients are incredibly grateful.”