Angel Leyba was lost, confused and upset when she got pregnant with her first child eight years ago. Lacking support and resources, she felt intimidated by the idea of motherhood, but said community services at Las Cumbres had helped her meet the challenge.
The non-profit organization celebrates 50 years of helping New Mexicans. It offers nearly 20 programs and services for children, families and adults with developmental disabilities in Santa Fe, Taos, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. Its funding comes from grants, fundraising and donations.
Leyba, now 30, from Santa Fe was referred to the organization by nurses at the hospital after giving birth to her son, Elijah.
“I’m struggling with PTSD and depression so when I got pregnant it shocked me,” she said. “I literally didn’t have anyone, so when they walked in they became like my family in a way.”
Leyba has participated in the Confident Parenting home visiting program in Las Cumbres with her first child, as well as a second child. The program sends a home visitor with training in evidence-based parenting programs, safe sleep, and other areas to help mentor and support parents.
“Honestly, I wasn’t sure I had a home visitor,” Leyba said. “When I got into the program I started to like it because it was a great support in a time when I needed it.”
Her home visitor helped her improve her self-confidence as a mother, focusing on the things she did well and sharing ways she could review the behaviors she had learned from. his parents, Leyba said.
When she got pregnant with her second child, she joined Que Cute! program, which is designed to help support women and improve maternal health and childbirth outcomes.
“I had already built a foundation and a relationship with them, so it was good to have someone to go to the doctor with me, watch me and make sure I take care of myself and my 3s. years old, “Leyba said.
Las Cumbres, which means “the highs” in Spanish, also encouraged her to achieve personal goals besides being a mom, like working for her GED, taking classes at a community college and getting her driver’s license, a she added.
When Leyba first got pregnant, she said, many around her doubted her ability to be a mother.
“A lot of people have apologized, but a lot of people are grateful to see where I am today not only as a woman but as a mother,” Leyba said. “And it’s so good.”
While Las Cumbres has several programs for new mothers and families in New Mexico, it also supports those who re-enter the area of parenting after receiving custody of their grandchildren.
Linda Bernal from Santa Fe is one of those people.
Bernal received custody of his first grandson in 2012, 5-month-old grandson and 20-month-old granddaughter in 2019, as their mother struggled with drug addiction.
As a 66-year-old single woman raising three grandchildren, she said, Las Cumbres has helped her stay sane during the stressful transition.
“It was overwhelming taking care of the little ones,” said Bernal. “Both were born under the influence, so neither slept through the night. I was up five, six times a night.”
Her granddaughter developed speech problems; Las Cumbres put the family in touch with a speech therapist.
Bernal encountered the same problem with her oldest grandson when she adopted him, she said. It was then that she discovered the association.
“They were very helpful in getting him into speech therapy,” Bernal said. “After he grew up a bit and started school, I didn’t need all of these resources anymore.”
She contacted the organization again in 2019 after welcoming her two youngest grandchildren.
Las Cumbres not only put her in touch with a speech therapist, but also helped enroll the children in preschool programs and offered therapy to help the children deal with the trauma they had suffered.
Bernal also reached out to other grandparents who had the same experience through the organization, which provided her with the help and support she needed, she said.
“I made friends and sometimes when the day gets tough if you need to talk to someone you can contact one of them and vice versa,” she said.
Many people who receive services are involved in multiple programs over time, said Robyn Covelli, director of development and communications for Las Cumbres.
Covelli said the organization has grown “by leaps and bounds” over the past 15 years. It serves around 7,000 people per year with nearly 200 employees.
Las Cumbres also offers services for fathers and immigrants. Many clients are low-income and do not have personal transportation.
Covelli said Las Cumbres’ work is often “behind the scenes” and woven into the fabric of other community service programs in New Mexico through partnerships and collaborations.
“What I have observed over the past 16 years is how this team of staff have taken on the challenge in an incredible and selfless manner,” said Covelli. “These are just a few of the big hearted people you might want to meet.”
Emma Miramontes has been a professional coach for adults with intellectual disabilities in Las Cumbres for seven years. Her role in helping others apply for and keep jobs in Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties is the most rewarding job she has had, Miramontes said.
Las Cumbres has helped adults secure positions at New Mexico companies such as the Rio Grande sun newspaper, Rio Arriba County and Los Alamos Senior Center, according to its website.
Miramontes coaches Desirae Martinez, 28, who has worked in an office in Las Cumbres in Española for a year and a half.
“Desirea is a lovely girl; she is ready to learn anything, ready for a new task if given to her,” said Miramontes. “She goes above and beyond what she does.”
Martinez said she enjoys working with her coach and loves her role. Her favorite job is taking phone calls and bringing food to preschool classes on Fridays.
“Las Cumbres has made a big difference in my life,” she said.
As it grows, the organization is not immune to challenges.
Transportation to remote residences can be a barrier for programs that require home visits, Covelli said. Las Cumbres also hopes to reduce customer wait times. Finally, he hopes to de-stigmatize access to behavioral health services.