LOS LUNAS — These Los Lunas High School students are always willing to lend a hand — or a paw.

An interact club with the Los Lunas Rotary Club, the Lending a Paw Club, empowers high school students to make a difference in their community through several different ongoing and upcoming service projects.

“We wanted to get a club together that was for all of our kids,” said Linda Ohle, a LLHS counselor and one of the founding sponsors of the club. “We wanted to especially reach out to kids (who) wouldn’t normally be in a club, ever needed help or just needed to find a place where they could interact with other people and feel connected.”

The club has been active at the school for the past three years, now boasting about 25 members in regular attendance and up to 50 members at community service events.

This year, the club has already reached Los Lunas and Valencia County community members. They adopted the street going to the high school, Emilio Lopez Road, and cleaned it up. They are making Christmas cards for the children at Carrie Tingley Hospital in Albuquerque, and also helped to plant trees along NM 6 by Jubilee Los Lunas.

As one of their ongoing projects, the club made and donated blankets to the Los Lunas fire and police departments to be handed out to families while the officers and firefighters are on call. On Dec. 9, the club donated about 40 more blankets to the departments.

Lending a Paw president and LLHS senior Yazmyn Luna, 17,  said she joined the club during the last school year, and became inspired by the community impact the previous club leaders made in the community. One of her biggest accomplishments as club president is rebuilding the club after losing several members to graduation in May.

“Just as a club as a whole, in my high school experience, has given me a lot of love from the community and seeing what people can actually do with something in high school, just a little club from high school,” Luna said.

A favorite project from the past year was when the club went to Beehive Homes in Bosque Farms shortly after the assisted living facility began allowing visitors.

“We still socially distanced and everything like that, but we were able to give them cards, interact, the band played for them and we just got to see them dancing and all these things,” Luna said. “It really touched my heart.”

Ohle said the Beehive residents sat outside as the LLHS band, which also had Lending a Paw members, played music for them.

“We got the residents to get up and dance and exercise. Just to see their smiling faces was just incredible,” she said. “The impact that it had on our students as well; that’s the one thing about community service is that, it just creates so much good within ourselves. It helps our mental health and it helps those — you don’t really realize how much they get out of it and how much we get out of it. It’s really powerful.”

In addition to giving students a sense of pride doing good for their community, Ohle said the club adds to the students’ college applications, scholarship applications, and helps with letters of recommendations and future careers.

“It’s an extra bonus because they are not doing it because of that,” she said. “It’s an extra bonus because they find that it really pays off when they are doing those scholarships and they can say they’ve done community service.”

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.