This was a challenging year for many organizations in Valencia County, including the Hispano Chamber of Valencia County. Unable to hold its signature scholarship fundraising event — the World’s Largest Matanza — in January due to COVID-19 restrictions, the chamber board of directors quickly pivoted to another plan.
Instead of a live event, the chamber held a months-long scholarship drive, complete with a raffle, and in May was able to award 58 $500 scholarships to Valencia County students, said past-president Julie Romero Benavidez
“I believe we’re a powerhouse in Valencia County. We work together to promote the county, youth and students,” Romero Benavidez said. “As an educational group, we know these students will benefit our community.”
At the chamber’s annual installation luncheon last month, a new board was sworn in and the group announced its Business of the Year and Nonprofit of the Year.
Daniel Chadborn, board president for the upcoming year, said the Member of the Year has been a big part of the Matanza for about 14 years, providing the hogs that are the cultural and culinary center of the event.
“Kyzer Farms, Robert Kyzer, has one of the cleanest operations I’ve ever seen at a pig farm,” Chadborn said. “The products they put out are incredible. No other provider can meet the specifications we’re looking for.”
Chadborn said the USDA-certified processor often donates funds and hogs to local fund raising events, including the two hogs raffled off during the installation luncheon.
The chamber’s 2021 Nonprofit of the Year was the Valencia County Animal Shelter, which has improved tremendously over the years thanks to its dedicated staff and community support, Chadborn said.
A 2011 Los Lunas High School graduate, Chadborn received a $500 scholarship from the chamber, Romero Benavidez said.
“We always tell our recipients to never forget where they come from and to remember the last Saturday in January. If they’re grateful for the help, they should come back and help,” she said.
Ever since he received the scholarship, Chadborn has returned to help with the Matanza, running tortillas, papitas and napkins to teams cooking up a storm for the event. He recently passed the state bar exam and returned to Los Lunas to practice, so Romero Benavidez “twisted his arm” to become more involved with the chamber.
“That scholarship bought my service for 10 years,” Chadborn said with a laugh.
When the board knew the Matanza couldn’t be held this year, it didn’t wait to come up with a plan to keep the scholarships alive, he said.
“Julie made this happen. They focused on the mission and didn’t wait to help the community,” he said.
The World’s Largest Matanza is “full steam ahead” on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, Romero Benavidez said.
The Hispano Chamber of Valencia County officers for the coming year are, Daniel Chadborn, president; Bob “Lucky” Lucero, president-elect; Rita Garcia, secretary; Jeanne Lujan, treasurer, and Julie Romero Benavidez, past-president.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.