Cell phones donated to aid domestic violence victims


SANTA FE, N.M. -- The state Construction Industries Division of the New
Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department donated a total of 85 used cell
phones to two American Indian domestic violence prevention shelters in
Albuquerque and Shiprock for 911 emergency calls.

"As a former victim of domestic violence, these donated phones mean so much
to me and other survivors," said Mary Ellen Herrera, a Morning Star House
Inc. board member. "When I was being abused I didn't have access to a phone
or even money to call for help."

Regulation and Licensing Deputy Superintendent Tom Buckner, and
Construction Industries Division officials Chris Archuleta and Richard
Romero, presented 50 cell phones to Morning Star House Director Gwen
Packard on Dec. 21.

"In support of Morning Star's initiatives to help victims of domestic
violence in Albuquerque, our goal is that one of these phones will help
save a person's life when they might be in danger," said Romero, CID Plans
and Permitting manager.

Buckner added, "The division recently changed phone providers and no longer
needed these cell phones. So the best choice was to donate them for
emergency services and extend a hand to assist victims of domestic

Shelters plan to loan the donated cell phones to high-risk domestic
violence clients to call 911 if they're caught in a life-threatening
situation. Although the cell phones will not have service, they are still
able to reach 911.

Gwen Packard, director of Morning Star House for the past nine years,
reported that there are alarmingly high rates of domestic violence in the
city and state.

"New Mexico ranks third in the nation for domestic violence-related
homicides," said Packard. "In Albuquerque, there is a population of 51,000
Native Americans that we serve. Morning Star responds to over 500 new
survivors of domestic violence each year. These phones will keep many of
our clients safe from physical abuse and give them a better chance of
protecting themselves and their children."

In Shiprock earlier that day, Construction Industries Inspector Kenneth
Barrett delivered 35 used cell phones to Gloria Champion, director of the
Home for Women and Children at the home's annual Christmas celebration.

"We are so thankful for these cell phones and the generosity extended to us
by Mr. Barrett from the Construction Industries Division," said Champion.
"Shiprock is a rural area and sometimes it's impossible for our clients to
reach a phone booth to call for help. Right now we have five women and 11
children living here who will feel safer with a cell phone in their pocket
when they leave the shelter."

The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department supports other domestic
violence programs throughout the state. In June, the Construction
Industries Division donated 68 cell phones to the "911 Cell Phone Project"
in Albuquerque, another domestic violence advocacy program.