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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
June 21, 2004
Volume 39, Number 16

Honoring staff offers own reward

By Laurie Mellas Ramirez

The annual UNM Staff Picnic is not always a picnic for those behind the scenes. Held in late July, the first year volunteers endured a monsoon. More typically, the sun blazes unmercifully. Until recently, the popular event had no budget.

But rain or shine, with hearty chuckles and scarcely a whine, the Rewards and Recognition Committee has stepped up to organize it since 1990, shortly after the UNM Staff Council was founded.

Two original members remain – Kathy Meadows, Continuing Education, and Raqui Martinez, Faculty Contracts – on what is touted as the council’s first working committee. Pauline Heffern, Political Archives, and current chair Theresa Everling, Health Sciences Center, have volunteered five years or more. Also currently serving are Tim Backus, Student Union; Kitty Hays, General Library; and Joe McKinney, Facility Planning.

Raqui Martinez, left, and Kathy Meadows remain members of the UNM Staff Council's first working committee -- Rewards and Recognition -- which they helped establish in 1990. Photo by Laurie Mellas Ramirez.

Dubbed the R&R committee, members rarely rest and relax. They organize the prestigious Gerald May Staff Awards, Jim Davis Award for Meritorious Staff Council Service, and with support from Human Resources, Staff as Students Recognition Ceremony and Staff as Students Manager Award. A new award for managers who promote practices to help employees with work-life balance is planned.

During President William C. Gordon’s tenure, Martinez said, the picnic was awarded a budget. Human Resources is now a sponsor and Beverly Adele, special events coordinator, assists with logistics. Director Susan Carkeek is a staunch supporter and annual volunteer.

This year, as a final act prior to retiring, Vice President for Business and Finance Julie Weaks Gutierrez beefed up the 2004 picnic budget. Instead of hamburgers and hotdogs, the menu will be barbecued chicken, beans, chips, cookies and non-alcoholic beverages – the only kind allowed for this family friendly affair.

Local band Fat City will play for the crowd of thousands at the 13th annual occasion, set for Saturday, July 24, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Rio Grande Zoo. Resident furry friends, face painters, Lobo Louie and Lucy, magicians, massage therapists and door prizes round out the entertainment. (See sidebar for ticket and shuttle bus information).

Meadows and Martinez agreed some picnics run smoother than others and each has its moments. The two whooped with laughter recalling the single year the picnic was held at the state fairgrounds, which lacked amenities provided by the zoo.

“We needed a place to keep the ice cream so I brought my brand new freezer from home – it wasn’t yet out of the box,” Martinez recollected.

“And I hauled the snow cone and popcorn machines in my trunk,” Meadows said.

Prior to receiving funding, the committee “flew by the seat of our pants,” pounding the pavement in search of donations from neighboring small and medium sized businesses, Martinez shared.

Asked why they continue to serve after 13 rounds, the women, clearly consummate volunteers, seem stymied.

“It’s important for staff to be recognized,” Martinez said.

“Everyone wants their work to be appreciated,” Meadows said. “The majority of staff look forward to it. When I stand on the bandstand looking out over the crowd and I see them enjoying it, I know I had a part in that, and it feels good. We have a lot of respect for one another and we work well as a team. But the bottom line is we love UNM and we truly care about the staff.”