The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

73rd Wombat Wives winners of Big Give


August 19, 2011

Courtesy photo Tina Blessing, left, and Gretchen Brown, of the 73rd Wombat Wives team, paint a bench at the Hillcrest Zoo in Clovis in mid-April as part of their Big Give project for Cannon Air Force Base. The team won first place and people’s choice in the competition.

The 73rd Wombat Wives were recently named first place winners and the people’s choice winners for Cannon Air Force Base’s annual Big Give program.

Cannon Community Center Director Paul Hopkins, who runs the program, said this was the second year for the Big Give and teams increased from nine last year to 21 this year.

“The first year was really good and very successful. Then, the second year it just blew up,” Hopkins said. “The people that do the community service projects feel a lot of pride in what they do. They love giving back to the community and helping people. This is where we live, so in a sense, we are bettering things for ourselves.”

Hopkins said each team chooses a community service project which will have a positive impact on the Clovis community. The teams, made up of five to 15 members, are given one month to complete their projects.

“It’s the quality and quantity of work put in and the impact on the community,” Hopkins said of the project winners. “It was primarily the hard work they put into it and just the compassion they had for the project. They were there almost six days a week for eight hours a day for a month. They really put a lot of work into it.”

Prizes for the program’s winners are $3,000 for first place, $1,500 for second and $500 for people’s choice.

Hopkins said first and second place winners are chosen by appointed judges but people’s choice is chosen by the teams themselves.

“We thought we had just gotten the people’s choice and we were thrilled with that,” said Gretchen Brown, team leader for the Wombat Wives. “Then we found out we got first place and that was a jaw dropper because there were some amazing teams who did amazing things.”

Brown said her team saw a lot of enthusiastic reactions from community members and zoo faculty over the project, which included painting zoo benches, fences, buildings, along with creating animal cutouts to place around the zoo.

“It’s just rewarding to be able to give back to the community. Anywhere else I’ve been stationed, they don’t have projects like this,” Brown said. “All of it was fun. There wasn’t a single part where I thought, ‘Uh, this is not going to be a fun day.’ It was fun seeing the zoo get punched up with color.”

Brown said after winning the $3,500, the team reimbursed themselves for the materials they used for their project then split the rest between the Special Operations Warrior Fund and the zoo.


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