By Lillian Bowe
When Ken Conaway and his wife, Judy, arrived at the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home all the way from Alabama over three weeks ago, the children were a little hesitant to greet them.
Conaway came with 25 other members of their organization, Alabama Campers on a Mission (COM), to do a project at the home, but the children were not sure how to interact with the new guests.
“On our first day here, we saw some of the children on their bikes coming towards us. I saw one of the little girls had a cut on her knee, so my wife immediately came back with a Band-Aid. Then a few minutes later, several other kids supposedly fell, too, and wanted Band-Aids from us,” Conaway said.
After that, the group became instant friends with the children.
COM is a national Baptist organization that does mission trips and volunteers to help people while its members live in campers during the duration of their mission.
This year, the Alabama chapter decided to donate their labor to the children’s home in Portales and they have completed 89 projects at the home.
Conaway and Bill Foster were the project leaders and said it was by the grace of God that they finished all the projects.
“The average age of the volunteers is 71 years old and what we accomplished here is astonishing,” Conaway said.
The group consisted of mostly husband and wife teams, who lived in camper trailers for three weeks out at the home.
Some of the projects they accomplished were building a green house, installing new floors in the Record House, building two swimming pool baths and helping the children with various 4-H projects.
Randy Rankin, executive director of the children’s home, said he met the group at the national COM rally and the group said they needed a new project outside of their home state.
“They have accomplished things these past three weeks that we could have accomplished in a year. We will remember them forever for what they have done,” Rankin said.
The group had done a lot of construction work, but the lasting impression they got from working at the Portales children’s home was interacting with the children.
“Interacting with the kids has been my favorite part of this project. When we first got here, they were reserved. Now they hug us and many have told us we should move out here,” Foster said.
When the campers were not working, they were with the children, helping them with various projects and even hosting a talent show.
“It was so much fun to see the kids perform and have fun. They were all very talented,” said Foster’s wife, Angela Foster.
The group also picked up candy at the Heritage Days Parade as the children were on a float and could not get candy themselves.
Conaway said the project they did will last for years.
“We wanted to make the facilities and buildings better for the children living here,” Conaway said.