Victor Roberts and Charles Townley believe everyone has “a logical as well as a biological family.” Through their endowed fund at the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, they are supporting their logical family by funding LGBTQIA+ community and educational initiatives throughout southern New Mexico. They also seek to encourage additional continuing support for the LGBTQIA+ community in the region.
Recently, Brittany Ontiveros was selected as the first scholarship recipient of the Charles T. Townley and Victor T. Roberts LGBTQIA+ Designated Endowed Fund. Ontiveros, a sophomore at Doña Ana Community College, has hit her stride both academically and professionally, but that wasn’t always the case. “I started school when I was eighteen years old, but because I was dealing with mental health and family issues, I dropped out,” said Ontiveros. After trying to return to school with limited success, she found a medical care team and made her mental health a top priority. Ontiveros also found a renewed focus when she began working at Cruces Creatives, a local nonprofit makerspace. She quickly learned that she enjoyed the art-inspired side of the work but also began to appreciate the administrative functions of the job. “My brain loves the numbers and puzzles that come with accounting and grant reporting,” she said. With encouragement from her supervisor, Ontiveros re-enrolled at Doña Ana Community College and decided to pursue an associate degree in bookkeeping.
Ontiveros’ story aligns with the development Townley and Roberts are looking to encourage in the LGBTQIA+ community. Aside from administrative work, Ontiveros also has been a part of developing the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) program at Cruces Creatives. This has allowed her to work one-on-one with local youth, many of whom are questioning their own sexuality and gender identity. “As a bisexual individual, I know people have fought these fights for me. So, now I am working to mentor youth along their journey and teach them lessons like how it’s not okay to ‘out’ other students,” said Ontiveros.
The Charles T. Townley and Victor T. Roberts LGBTQIA+ Designated Endowed Fundencourages growth and resilience in the LGBTQIA+ community in southern New Mexico by making grants to organizations for LGBTQIA+ initiatives in the social sciences, arts and humanities. “For example,” says Townley, “we want to help gay/straight alliance organizations achieve their goals at colleges and schools in the region.” The fund also supports scholarships for LGBTQIA+ students in higher education. “When we help somebody, we are investing in our future,” says Roberts. “We trust that recipients will remember the ‘why’ behind our actions and pay it forward.” Townley and Roberts also want to encourage others to participate in developing LGBTQIA+ organizations and individuals in southern New Mexico. “We encourage other members of our LGBTQIA+ logical family to support the ongoing development of our community,” say Roberts and Townley.
The fund’s purpose and impact might seem broad, but once you meet Roberts and Townley, the focus seems natural. Roberts, who hails from Texas and is a Hispanic American, describes himself as a “product of two cultures, someone who was different and needed to be adaptable and walk in both worlds.” He dropped out of high school due to the bullying he experienced for being gay. Roberts’ life then became filled with adventures ranging from deep sea diving to building computers and spending time travelling the world. Townley spent 45 years in higher education, serving as a Professor of Education and as Dean of the New Mexico State University Library. He also enjoyed two appointments as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer and as a Visiting Professor at Beijing Normal University. During Dr. Townley’s time in Beijing, he developed an appreciation for contemporary Chinese art and soon began collecting it. When Townley met Roberts, their combined love of art resulted in a growing collection which they have since donated to the University of Southern California’s Pacific-Asia Museum in Pasadena, CA.
Dr. Terra Winter, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, sees the Townley/Roberts endowment as a beginning for generating additional LGBTQIA+ support throughout southern New Mexico. “CFSNM has created a more general EnvisionLGBTQIA+ Endowment to support ongoing LGBTQIA+ activities, programs, research and scholarships in many areas of interest. The CFSNM Envision LGBTQIA+ Endowment will support ongoing activities in Catron, Chaves, Doña Ana, Grant, Hidalgo, Lincoln, Luna, Otero, and Sierra counties,” said Winter.
The Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico serves as a community resource, connects donors to needs, and supports charitable organizations in their work. As a center for charitable giving, the foundation supports Catron, Chaves, Doña Ana, Hidalgo, Otero, Sierra, Socorro, Grant, Lincoln & Luna Counties. For more information on the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, visit www.cfsnm.org.