1969 is when it all began.
In 1969, members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Los Alamos created Self Help, Inc.. The founders were concerned about the well-being of northern New Mexicans. The project started as a seed money grant program to support the rural agricultural livelihood in Rio Arriba and Taos Counties. In the early years, Self Help partially funded an apple coop in the Velarde area and purchased an adobe brick making machine which was loaned to families who were building a home .
Self Help learned many valuable lessons and refocused its priorities. Devi Raju, the first director, was trained as a lawyer in India. She was able to help clients with legal problems relating to land and water rights. Devi supported social justice and became a well-known advocate for northern New Mexicans.
Joyce Pyburn had the background and experience to become the second director. She advanced the organization with her energy and skilled direction. She was responsible for Self Help's strong connection with the United Way of Northern New Mexico.
In 2000, Self Help responded to the Cerro Grande Fire in Los Alamos, utilizing a large grant from the LANL Foundation. Ellen Morris Bond was hired to help Joyce meet the increased needs. Ellen’s background in community development was similar to Joyce’s experience, and they made a wonderful team. When Joyce retired in 2001, Ellen was selected as the new director.
In 2018, Ellen retired from her role as director, and Maura Taylor was brought on to take the reins. With a background in nonprofit work and finance, Maura grew up in the Los Alamos area and has a longstanding relationship with Self Help and the populations it serves.
Self Help understands the need for diverse funding streams and flexible services. We access funding from organizations for special needs such as housing for homeless families, medical issues, disaster response, and fuel in the wintertime. A vital program at Self Help is the emergency fund which provides vital assistance with basic needs during stressful times.
Through an interview process, office staff and volunteers work with clients to determine the best aid for their needs. Emergency funding, when combined with the clients' efforts, encourages them to rise above difficult personal circumstances. Self Help focuses on providing aid that is most empowering for a person's long-term outcomes--needs such as mental healthcare, a uniform for a new job, or replacing a government ID. The best aid is that which underscores a person's dignity and autonomy.
In recent years, Self Help has increased its focus on providing information and referrals for further aid. Thousands of referrals to partner organizations and government agencies across northern New Mexico are given each year for services ranging from legal aid to parenting support. By working collaboratively, Self Help and its partners are able to provide comprehensive services to those in need.