LOS LUNASA mother’s pain of more than five years has turned into an act of love. 

When Yvonne Vallejos’ son, Jonathon Saiz, was killed in 2018 it was a devastation that started to lead her down a dark path. 

“I was starting to think things that …” She pauses. “I had to give it to God.” 

In May 2018, the body of Saiz, of Los Chavez, was found in a car in southeast Albuquerque. Video footage of him with two men at the Albuquerque Downs race track surfaced, but led no where. To date, no one has been charged in his death. 

Vallejos knew she had to do something to keep going and to honor her son. She decided to help people who, for one reason or another, were living on the street. 

“As an adult, Jonathon did live on the street sometimes, and there were a lot of people who helped him, who would lend him a phone so he could call me,” Vallejos said. “That is one thing I’m grateful for. I got to talk to him and say ‘I love you’ before he was killed. I know people have strong opinions about those who are homeless, but they are still people and they deserve to be safe and warm and cared for.” 

“At first, we were very involved in the investigation — going into places to talk to people the police told us to stay out of. We’re the ones who found that video,” Vallejos said. “There’s been nothing at all since. I’m very frustrated.  

“I had to do something out of love, to honor Jonathon. There are a lot of good people out there who just need a little help. They are people and they deserve that.” 

Vallejos created an event called Packets of Love, where community members assemble bags of essential items to be distributed to unhoused people. In 2018 and 2019, she held it in October, but then COVID interrupted. She tried to regain momentum last year but couldn’t. Thinking it was a lost cause, out of the blue Vallejos heard from the Belen Moose Riders Post 1680. The philanthropic group was looking for a project. 

The lodge, at 19482 N.M. 314 in Belen, will have a donation box for items for the event, which starts at 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Los Lunas. Vallejos said donations can be taken to the restaurant on the day of the event and if community members want to help assemble the bags, they are more than welcome. 

After the packets are put together, Vallejos and the riders will distribute them to individuals in the Los Lunas area and to Grace NM Church, 3384 N.M. 47, Los Lunas, for distribution during the church’s free meal, which is served from 4-5 p.m. every  Wednesdays. 

Items needed 

  • Beanies 
  • Gloves 
  • Socks (men and women) 
  • Scarves 
  • Emergency blankets 
  • Small/regular bottled water 
  • Gum 
  • Individually wrapped candy 
  • Tooth brushes 
  • Tooth paste 
  • Gallon zip lock bags 
  • Travel size: 
  • Shampoo and conditioner 
  • Body wash 
  • Deodorant 
  • Cleansing wipes 
  • Menstrual pads/tampons 
  • Hair ties 
  • Hair brush 
  • Small snacks (no opening device needed) 
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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.