MEET OUR BOARD


OFFICERS


President:  Rita Navarrete

Public service is not new to Rita. She retired after serving in the federal workforce for over 36 years from the Department of Agriculture. Her role as an Administrative Officer gave her experience in managing employees with emphasis in Human Services, IT, Contracting, Employee Relations, and Union Negotiations.

As past national president of the American Legion Auxiliary, the largest woman’s patriotic organization with over 800,000 members, Rita witnessed firsthand the operations of Fisher House programs throughout the United States and Germany. She listened to stories from wounded soldiers and family members separated from their loved ones. Visiting Fisher Houses during her leadership year gave her a unique awareness and understanding of the importance of an accessible Fisher House. Her passion in promoting the building of New Mexico‘s first Fisher House comes from her dedicated volunteer efforts to secure veteran benefits, promote individual well-being and provide the healthcare and family support necessary for a holistic recovery.


Vice-President:  Aaron Dean

Aaron is a former combat Marine who served during the Vietnam War. He is President of Operation Wounded Warrior (OWW), American Legion Riders (NMALR). In 2016, after helping the Warrior Support Center and Fisher House Foundation for ten years, the NMALR donated $45,000 to the Fisher Foundation in order to start the building of a Fisher House on the VA property in Albuquerque. To date, the NMALR has raised and donated $100,000 to get this house built. In addition to the Fisher House contributions, the NMALR continues to perform acts of kindness to help their fellow veterans on an individual basis. This is done by fixing roofs, building ramps, and repairing plumbing or even moving people that are in a bad place. They also support the Veterans Hospitals, Cemeteries, and Homes.


Picture of Collice Manning - Treasurer of Friends of Fisher House New MexicoTreasurer:  Collice Manning

Collice Manning is an Administrator for Local Govt. of Rio San Jose Flood Control District. She brings years of financial experience with bookkeeping practices and compliance with State and Federal tax laws. She became a volunteer at an early age, and continues to volunteer for non-profit organizations, enjoys riding her trike, swimming, and people. Favorite saying “if you can be anything, be kind”.


Secretary: Darlene Allen

Darlene has worked for 38 years in the field of Medical Business Administration and Management, holding a variety of administrative positions. She retired from Lovelace Medical Center after 20 years and is currently employed with Eye Associates of New Mexico.

Darlene has been an active and dedicated member of the American Legion Auxiliary for 19 years, serving in various Offices at Unit Level, District Level, and Department of New Mexico. She volunteers at the VA Medical Center and NM Integration Center “Stand Down” and serves as VAVS representative for the American Legion Auxiliary.

Darlene has been a strong Advocate promoting New Mexico’s 1st Fisher House since 2014.  Her project as ALA Department President for the State of New Mexico 2014-2015 was the New Mexico Fisher House where she raised over $24,000 in donations from various contributors.


BOARD MEMBERS


Denise Austin

Denise is currently employed with Nusenda Credit Union as their VP of Merchant Lending.  She has over 38 years of experience working in credit unions and credit union affiliated lending providers and holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business. Prior to coming to Nusenda she spent the last 25 years at CRIF Lending Solutions, most recently as their EVP. Denise currently serves on the board of REIA (Renewable Energy Industry Association) and enjoys supporting her community through the many opportunities Nusenda’s community partners provide. She also is a Financial Capability Ambassador helping to continue financial education within our youth.


Patricia Barger, JD

Patricia graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in Business and Management, did graduate work at Georgetown University in International Relations and earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of La Verne College of Law.  She is a retired financial consultant who specialized in wealth management strategies for highly compensated executives of large publicly held corporations, and partners of large national/regional accounting, law and advertising firms.

Patricia is the immediate past Board Chair, has served as Treasurer and Vice Chair, and currently serves as a Director of Paws and Stripes (a non-profit that rescues local shelter dogs and trains them to be service dogs for military veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or Traumatic Brain Injury).  She is an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution on the local and state level.  She serves on the Steering Committee of the Children’s Water Festival at Rio Rancho, chairs a grant panel review committee for the United Way of Central New Mexico and is Chair of the Rio Rancho Parks and Recreation Commission.

Patricia has served on the board of Keep New Mexico Beautiful, Sandoval County Master Gardeners, Bernalillo County Master Composters, the Albuquerque Garden Center and the fundraising committee for the Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails.   


Picture of Ruby Garcia - Board Member of Friends of Fisher House New MexicoRuby Garcia

Ruby is a retired flight attendant and a former APD/City of Albuquerque employee, currently an actress in New Mexico and serves on the Board of the Actors Association of New Mexico. She is a proud Blue Star Mother, serving as 4th Vice President, Blue Star Mothers of America Rio Grande Chapter 2, Albuquerque, NM.  She is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, Unit 72. Having been a former Fisher House Guest at the Ft. Bragg Fisher House in North Carolina, enables her to share her story of how the Fisher House staff took her under their wings during the time her son (82nd Airborne Unit, Group Readiness Force for Syria) was severely injured. She will never ever repay the Fisher House for the love and care they gave her. Also the bonding with other family members who also were housed and able to be with their loved ones, will never be forgotten. Ruby enjoys volunteering in the community and is dedicated to helping our Veterans and Military families.  As former Ms. Classic New Mexico, Ruby focused her year to support Veterans. Proud of being a grandmother to four beautiful grandchildren. 


Kenneth Nadeau

Ken is a former active Marine serving between 1988 to 2003 with tours during Operation Desert Storm and Shield. He is the Past State President of the New Mexico American Legion Riders where the $100K was raised. He is currently active in The American Legion at all levels of the organization; and currently serves as the appointed representative to the Governor’s Board for Veteran’s Homes which oversees the facilities in Ft. Bayard and Truth or Consequences, NM.

 

 


Jo Ann G. Zembiec

Jo Ann was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Kona, Hawaii. She graduated with a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and pursued an elementary education certificate from NMSU. She married her husband, Don, of nearly 52 years and moved around the country as he pursued his career. They eventually returned to NM and Jo Ann taught third grade at Acoma Elementary until she retired in 2000.

Jo Ann is an active member of the American Gold Star Mothers, Albuquerque Chapter, member of the United Veterans Council, a master gardener of 16 years, and a docent at the Natural History Museum.  She loves gardening and volunteering for many Veterans’ causes.