LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – A local New Mexico Girl Scout made it her mission to connect children who were separated from their loved ones who are coming out of incarceration. The women at The Pavilions, one of the transitional housing programs through Crossroads for Women, aren’t allowed to visit with their families because of COVID-19.

Under normal circumstances, families would be able to visit women in the program, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the campus had to close to visitors, making re-establishing family relationships difficult. High school junior Isabella Campbell has done community service projects with Crossroads before and wanted to find a way to help these women on their journey of community reintegration.

Campbell ordered teddy bears, stuffing, and a heart-shaped recording device where each of the women could record a message, lullaby, or a bedtime story for their child or grandchild. Once those messages were recorded, Campbell picked them up and put them inside a teddy bear along with other goodies to send to the children around Christmas. “I just wanted to create a sense of togetherness because I know it’s hard. I love my parents and couldn’t imagine being away from them,” Campbell said.

Program Coordinator Ashley Lucero said everyone was excited to participate in this project and helped many of the women dealing with isolation during the pandemic. “We’re almost on complete lockdown. We can’t have visitors, they only get telephone calls. For them to be able to send something to their children and their grandchildren where they could hear them every night, read a story to them as if they were there, I thought it was amazing,” Lucero said.

The Pavilions and Maya’s Place, Crossroad’s transitional housing community in Bernalillo County, offers safe, structured living for women emerging from incarceration. Clients receive wrap-around services, including case management, family support, vocational services, and groups focused on recovery and mental health.

One of the program participants, Elizabeth Acosta, is originally from California, where her son is living now. “He got to hear my voice every night before he goes to bed. I appreciate Izzy being able to do this for me for Christmas, it means so much to me,” Acosta said. “I just wanted to let my little boy know that even though I’m not there, I’m always with him.”

Kim Jaramillo said she hasn’t been able to meet her grandchildren yet, but she was excited for the chance to send a message to them. “They’ve not ever seen me or ever really talked to me, so now they’ve got my voice to get familiar with, so when I do get out and able to meet them, they’ll know who I am,” Jaramillo said.

While Campbell was able to receive her Gold Award through this project, she said at the heart of it was a passion to highlight a community program that she believes in. “The people at Crossroads are just amazing people doing amazing work. I’ve got to work with them for nine years and I love supporting and uplifting women. We need more of that in this world,” Campbell said.