St. Felix Pantry Vice President of Development Manuel Casias, who has been with the pantry for seven years, has moved on to work for Youth Development Inc. as its new vice president of development.
(Stephen Montoya / Rio Rancho Observer)

After serving St. Felix Pantry as vice president of development for almost seven years, Manuel Casias has left the local non-profit to fill a position with Youth Development Inc. as its new vice president of development.

Casias, who started working with Sister Edna Pearl in 2013, said the pantry has grown not just in size, but also in the services it offers since he began.

“I still can’t believe how much this place has grown,” Casias said. “When I started here, all we offered was food, clothing and referrals. But I am proud to say we can now add education to that list.”

Casias said he found out about St. Felix Pantry after one of its board members invited him to take a tour of the facility to see if he would be interested in coming to help find funds for it.

“I was just amazed that first day when I came to see how many people were in line to get food,” he said.

Highlights after seven years

Casias said one of the first things he wanted to fix at the pantry was the aluminum windows.

“It was an old building with old windows,” he said. “Our volunteers were always complaining about how cold it would get in the winter.”

Casias said St. Felix reached out to the PNM Resources Foundation for a Reduce Your Use grant and was able to procure $5,000 over three years to have the windows replaced.

“Now you don’t feel the wind blowing through them anymore,” he said. “This is good for two reasons: One, our volunteers are warm, and, two, our guests are warm.”

Casias also pointed to the recent remodel of the pantry.

“Now we have new floors and a new roof,” he said. “If you look outside, we just installed a new awning for our guests to enjoy while waiting in line.”

Casias said he is also proud of the education center the pantry launched last year; it allows high school dropouts to receive a high school diploma equivalency.

“Since we started this program, we have had over 22 graduates that can move on to a profession without an education hindrance,” he said.

According to Casias, the pantry has also teamed up with New Mexico Highlands University to aid with its social-worker studies program.

“They know if a student with this major comes here, they will get a real-world experience,” he said.

From left, Sister Mary Angela Parkins stands next to former Vice President of Development for St. Felix Pantry Manuel Casias and the pantry’s newest member, Sister Juanita Szymanski, outside the food donation area at the pantry.
(Stephen Montoya / Rio Rancho Observer)

Plans for the future

Casias said he knows exactly what he will do at his new job.

“I will be developing and building upon the organization’s capacity to deliver a whole array of services,” he said.

Casias said he would work closely with YDI’s leadership team.

“Development from my end happens on multiple levels,” he said. “In essence, you can sometimes steward a donor that typically gives you $1 a year to give you 10 next year. And when you have 10,000 of those donors, the numbers add up.”

Casias said he has no regrets in leaving because he believes everyone ends up where they are called to be.

“I really believe in my heart that I am being called to assist in YDI’s development,” he said. “It’s not ministry, per se, but I believe it will still be a type of ministry in the respect that I will use whatever gifts I have to give back.”

Casias said he will take parts of St. Felix with him no matter where he goes.