By Molly Maxwell
For The Daily Times
FARMINGTON —Jenny Dennis and ShawnArachuleta are so insepara-ble they are known by theirSpecial Olympics familyaffectionately as “Shenny”.“Shenny” even receivesmail from the SpecialOlympics New Mexicoheadquarters, and theirdevotion to their work withthe Special Olympics is justas strong as their bond witheach other.Dennis and Arachuletahave been working togetheras community service offi-cers for the FarmingtonPolice Department for 15years, and have helped withthe police department’sinvolvement with SpecialOlympics for just as long.However, over the years,their involvement hasgrown to the point that it isnow more of a way of lifefor them.“You just get sucked in.There really is no other wayto put it,” Dennis said. “Atthis point, even if we wereno longer with the policedepartment, we would stillbe doing this work.”The Law EnforcementTorch Run is one of theseveral fundraisers Dennisand Arachuleta take part inas community service offi-cers, and Sgt. Kent O’Don-nell said the women domost of the work on theirown time.The torch run raisespublic awareness and is themain fundraiser for the Spe-cial Olympics, and umbrel-las other fundraisersthroughout the year. Dennisand Arachuleta are commit-tee chairs for the run, plusthey oversee the PolarPlunge, Chili’s Tip-A-Cop –where police officers work as Chili’s waiters to gener-ate money for the SpecialOlympics – and the SpecialOlympic events that takeplace in Farmington.“They have set a newhigh for raising money forthe Special Olympics (forthe Farmington PoliceDepartment) this year,” saidO’Donnell.So far this year, theyhave raised $18,000 andthey are only half waythrough the year.Other Special OlympicsAreas in New Mexico look to Area 1’s torch run andChili’s Tip-A-Cop as amodel to follow.The inaugural C.A.S.T.For Kids Special OlympicsSummer Camp at NavajoLake ran June 21 through23, and Arachuleta andDennis took the lead role inorganizing the event.Fishing was the mainevent, but other activitiesincluded making bird feed-ers, a scavenger hunt andweaving survivor bracelets.Dennis and Arachuletawork closely with DebraLisenbee, the Area 1 NewMexico Special OlympicsDirector.“We actually had to sayOK, Jenny, we only havetwo days,’” Lisenbee saidof Dennis’enthusiasm foradding activities to theweekend. “They’re like abad penny – you can’t getrid of them. But a whole lotof this wouldn’t be happen-ing without them.”
Molly Max well is a con-tributing writer for The Daily Times.
By James Fenton
email@example.com @fentondt on Twitter
AZTEC — With pinsholding his spine togetherand reconstructed knees,soft-spoken Larry Turk lumbers slowly along, butthat doesn’t get in his way.Turk, familiar to mostpeople as the superintend-ent of Aztec Ruins and theacting superintendent of Chaco Culture NationalPark, is on a mission tomake the cultural sites heoversees and the surround-ing community a betterplace.“That’s what we’re try-ing to do here, is toincrease the number of programs we offer, toalways focus on outreach,”he said. “The real dividendpaid is educating ouryouth and you can’t put aprice on that.”Part of that is the Park Service’s Call to Actionplan to increase the pub-lic’s appreciation andstewardship of U.S. parksas it nears its 100th year.Turk and his staff haverolled out dozens of proj-ects to answer the call.Those projects includeconnecting downtownAztec to the Ruins with anew pedestrian trail sys-tem and walking bridgeover the Animas River,providing learning-serviceefforts in the park witharea students, uppingclassroom visits by inter-pretation staff from sevento 162 this last academicyear, erecting wood postfencing and shade struc-tures designed by Turk who was inspired by theRuins’architecture, andworking with a Cub Scoutpack and Youth Conserva-tion Corps to grow vegeta-bles and native plants inthe park’s demonstrationgarden.For a guy somewhathobbled by injuries sus-tained while serving thecountry as an airborneArmy Ranger, Turk man-ages to stay in constantmotion.In 11 years, Turk wentfrom entry-level custodianat South Padre IslandNational Seashore, Texas,to his current twin superin-tendent roles.Not satisfied managingtwo national parks, Turk serves on four boards —the Aztec Chamber of Commerce, Aztec trailsand Open Space, AztecMuseum, and soon to bechair of the Lodger’s TaxAdvisory board — toincrease the positive for-ward motion he envisionsfor the community.“I am very driven and Ienjoy a challenge, I admitit,” he said. “I usuallyreach my 40 work hoursby Wednesday. But I don’twear a watch; time doesn’tmatter to me. If I wasn’tout working, I’d just besitting at home, so I staybusy.”Turk begins each Feb-ruary working weekendsduring the remainder of the school year with AztecHigh School Junior ROTCcadets whom he employsfull-time in the summer. Aformer Eagle scout, he canbe as often found sitting ata conference table or atcommission meetings aspicking up a shovel anddiverting the park’s irriga-tion trenches.He currently is in nego-tiations with Bureau of Land Management offi-cials to limit or remove oiland gas leases that sur-round the park at Chaco.Noise and air pollutionfrom roads, traffic,drilling, and anything thatsullies the pristine park experience for visitorsconcerns him.“Today, you can almostgo back in time to over1,000 years ago,” Turk said. “To be out there, youcan see everything in thesky in sharp focus.”In July, Turk’s efforts todesignate the park as a“Dark Sky Park” will besecured. The rare honor isgiven by the InternationalDark Sky Association, anon-profit that promotesthe preservation and pro-tection of night skiesacross the globe. Chacowill be only the fourthpark in the country withthe designation.In March, Turk washonored as Aztec’s citizenof the year for his dedica-tion to communityimprovement. Last year,Turk, who moved to Aztecwhen he accepted hissuperintendent positiontwo years ago, was namedan official 2012 Old Sore-head for his volunteeringwork.Turk quietly defers anyacclaim he has received toothers.“I couldn’t do any of the things I do without myincredible staff and myawesome wife,” he said.“It’s not my success. It’sthe community’s. I don’twork this much forawards, even though I amvery honored (to be recog-nized).”Turk comes up withideas for progress and seesthem through. With helpfrom the ConservationCorps workers, he is clear-ing a dead apple orchardon the west flank of theRuins, removing invasivespecies and revegetatingthe area. He hopes to putin a campground at itssouth end to furtherencourage visitors.For Turk, progress isonly possible by collabo-rating with others andkeeping at it every day.“Everything I do is cen-tered around the communi-ty, especially the youth,”Turk said. “They’re ourfuture. We’re going to bepassing the torch off tothem and I want to makesure that we’re doingeverything we can to liveup to or surpass theirexpectations.”
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He canbe reached at 505-564-4621.
For Larry Turk, making a difference is what matters most
The Daily Times
Larry Turk, poses for a portrait, Friday, June 21, 2013 at the Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec. Turk is the superintendent of AztecRuins National Monument.
A team of community service officers devoted to the Special Olympics
Photo courtesy of Molly Maxwell
Jenny Dennis and Shawn Arachuleta pose with all the campers at the first Special Olympic Summer Camp Saturday June 22nd.
Photo courtesy of Molly Maxwell
Dennis and Arachuleta go over the summer camp schedule with campers Friday June 21st.