Jacob Sena, senior district manager, and Amanda Sanchez, branch manager of the Wells Fargo Bank, presents a $10,500 check to the Belen MainStreet Partnership board of directors. (Submitted photos)

BELEN — Seven small, locally-owned businesses in Belen recently received grants to help with various needs, from landscape to supplies to signs.

Rhona Espinoza, the executive director of the Belen MainStreet Partnership, said the nonprofit organization was awarded a $10,500 grant from the Wells Fargo Community Grant committee to assist local businesses.

“Every year, the Wells Fargo Community Grant committee invites the Belen MainStreet Partnership, because we are a 501c3, to write a grant,” Espinoza said. “They give us a focus they would like us to consider when we’re applying for a grant.”

When COVID was very serious, Espinoza applied for a $5,100 grant from Wells Farms for personal protective equipment, which was given to downtown, locally-owned businesses within the district, which is from Baca to Reinken and First to Main streets.

“In the past, we’ve received other grants for things such as wayfinding signs, which are slowly going up,” she said. “It’s a slow and frustrating process.”

Espinoza asked Kathleen Pickering, a member of the board and the director of the Belen Public Library, to help write the HUB (Help Upgrade Business) Grant. Wells Fargo told the board this particular grant was to provide money to help businesses over barriers and to grow and be able to profit.

Books on Becker received $1,138 for needed repairs on the building and supplies for the used book store. Pictured from left, are Karen Keese, Kathleen Pickering, Merita Wilson and Rhona Espinoza, the Belen MainStreet Partnership’s executive director.

The BMSP gave business owners examples of what would be considered needs, such as structural — plumbing or electrical upgrades, building repairs; visual — facade improvements, signs, landscaping; equipment — computer upgrades, food service equipment, product displays; and services — payroll, marketing, IT needs.

“(The businesses) needed to justify these expenses,” Espinoza said. “Some are using the money to fix leaky roofs, for plumbing, for landscaping at Belen Art League and one is using it for a computer.  

“We have a wide range of needs in our district,” she said. “We were so happy that we were able to award every ask — seven businesses total.”

Espinoza said the grants to local businesses ranged from $1,100 to $1,500.

“This is so important because we are able to help locally-owned businesses and nonprofits,” the executive director said. “This is to help them succeed, continue and survive. There is so much need, and it’s great that we can help them in this regard.”

In July 2021, when flood waters damaged a lot of buildings in the Belen MainStreet Partnership district, Espinoza was able to get another $5,000 HUB grant to help businesses with flood recovery.

“People are very responsive to these grants,” Espinoza said. “Wells Fargo gives me large perimeters; I just need to be creative.”

Espinoza also was able to secure a $5,000 grant through the New Mexico Resiliency Alliance for facade improvements. The grant was split between Valencia Health and Wellness on Sixth Street, and Silver-Bar Studios on Becker Avenue.

“We were able to get money to get them started on their facade renovations,” Espinoza said. “They both look amazing today.

“I love writing these small grants. I got my training through New Mexico Main Street, and went through the certification process,” she said. “It’s helped me to learn how to focus on key words, and it’s a joy to be able to help our small businesses.”

Cece Aragon, with the Belen Art League, will use $1,500 for new sidewalk landscape.

Lorie Ranker, owner of Hub City Art Collective, received $1,231 for art supplies for classes.

Katy Dorsey, of Silver Bar Studio, will use $1,500 toward plumbing in her building. 

Lorraine Sachs Garcia, of Sachs 5th Real Estate, received $1,500 for roof repairs.

Holly Chavez, owner of H2 Academic Solutions in Belen, will use $1,500 for computers. 

Margie Rende, owner of Anew Boutique, received $1,415, for a new sign and window replacement.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.