ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Two former educators have been working to keep those affected by homelessness warm this winter, one stitch at a time. Huong McDoniel and Linda Clay were honored as the City of Albuquerque’s February Volunteers of the month for their donations of hand-made scarves and hats to the youth at New Day Youth and Family Services.
Huong’s daughter-in-law Hallee Nguyen was the person who nominated them for the honor. She spoke on their behalf during the virtual ceremony on Feb. 19. “They’re both retired, and they decided with all their free time, to give it back to other people. I was so inspired because not only are they volunteering their time, but they’re also making hats and scarves for homeless individuals,” Nguyen said. “Thank you for your generosity and your kindness. There are the kinds of stories that we need more of here in Albuquerque, so we’re honored that you’ve done this and continue to do this for our community.”
Mayor Keller presented the volunteers with their awards virtually and spoke about their work. “We really appreciate the altruistic nature that unites both of you as friends, your spirit of One Albuquerque, and that desire to give back,” Keller said.
Both women were introduced while teaching mathematics at Central New Mexico college, and were drawn to volunteerism after their retirement. “We love working with people and we love giving back to the community,” McDoniel said.
They asked Nguyen for suggestions on how they can help the community in a contactless way. Since they had already been meeting every week to crochet for friends and family, they decided to do that for community members who might appreciate something to help keep them warm during the winter.
In an emailed statement, Clay said McDoniel taught her how to crochet and it’s something that has brought her joy. “Every family member has at least one blanket and often a scarf. In addition, I get to spend time with my dearest friend crocheting. And, in December we were blessed to find a cause we could support. Huong’s daughter-in-law guided us to an organization that helps homeless youth. It meant so much to us that we were able to crochet items to help them stay warm in the cold months. It is my hope that we can continue to find ways to give back to our community and help those in need,” Clay said.
For McDoniel, this kind of sharing and empathy is deeply personal to her. “I’m a former Vietnamese refugee, and when I was in the refugee camps there were numerous people, volunteers. I didn’t know who they were but they went out of their way to donate things or time, and I was a beneficiary of that when I was in those camps. I taught my kids that’s the best way to give back, you don’t have to know the person, you can just be kind because kindness goes a long way,” McDoniel said.