Nurturing Animal Welfare in New Mexico Through Generosity and Compassion

Out of love for people and animals

Carla Freeman would drive her old Subaru all over Santa Fe as she volunteered at local shelters and food banks. Cat food, dog treats, spare leashes, and pet carriers took up her trunk space in case she crossed paths with a stray or lost pet. Animal shelters across the region could count on her to pick up dirty food dishes and return them clean the next day.  

Carla Freeman waving from her car

Penny, one of Carla’s close friends, recalls how much Carla loved the people and animals of New Mexico. She was known to deliver food to homebound folks, and she loved whipping up a meal for friends when they’d drop by ¬— unannounced or expected, it didn't matter. She had a passion and commitment to make the day a little brighter for a neighbor, a stranger, or an animal she encountered.  

Carla Freeman & Penny Goerlach

Beyond this life, Carla bequeathed a generous monetary donation to all she treasured through the Santa Fe Community Foundation (SFCF). Carla wanted to ensure that the love she expressed to her community while she was alive would carry on. Her amazing legacy gift established SFCF’s animal welfare endowment and paved the way for the foundation to attract future bequests in this field of interest. The Carla Freeman Animal Welfare Endowment and The Carla Freeman Fund now provide critical support to nonprofits all over northern New Mexico.  

Northern New Mexico is unique in its rich multicultural heritage and its treasured natural landscape. There are ample opportunities for individuals to uplift and support the missions of local nonprofit organizations that work hard to make life better for us. Animal welfare may not be the first priority to come to mind when assessing the needs of New Mexicans for some people, but Carla Freeman understood the role animals play in our lives and this region, and sought to secure their care to the best of her ability in perpetuity.

As stewards of donor funds, it is the responsibility of SFCF to execute those legacy wishes; in Carla’s case to address a pressing need in our communities: the protection and care of our domestic and wild animals. Carla’s bequest ensures that every year, SFCF can support animal welfare grantees who provide direct services, such as population control and cruelty prevention.  

2023 Community Grant recipient A Chance of a Lifetime (COLT) used their grant to deepen and extend the work they do pairing rehabilitated horses who have survived acute abuse and neglect with people navigating trauma and challenges such as homelessness, substance abuse, and incarceration. Their slogan, “Save a Horse, Save a Human,” is not a line they casually toss around. By connecting traumatized horses with traumatized people, both beings emerge with an understanding and connection that offers healing and recentering.  

Erica Hess greets horses at A Chance of a Lifetime

Erica Hess and Johan “Joost” Lammers say COLT was born from their deep respect for horses and their observation of the healing possibilities between horses and people in a structured, therapeutic setting. Speaking about the impact that donors and grant funding have on COLT’s mission and why New Mexicans should support animal welfare causes, Erica said:

“Why animals? People become powerful and whole when we allow our wounds to be seen…You watch people with their animals, or with any animal, and you just see this softening; where animals and humans connect is softness.”

This connection is potent, and the benefits are life-changing.  

The Animal Welfare Coalition (AWC) of Northeastern New Mexico has been active in the community since 2008 and currently receives annual support thanks to the Carla Freeman Fund. Created by local citizens in and around Las Vegas, NM, who saw a need and organized to address it, AWC was created to rescue, rehabilitate, and find forever homes for sick, injured, or forgotten animals. Their current focus is on generating access to free and low-cost spaying and neutering services, and thanks to their efforts, over 550 dogs and cats were spayed or neutered in San Miguel County over eighteen months, ending in fall 2023.  

Carla Freeman’s legacy gifts have helped fund the work of numerous animal welfare nonprofits around northern New Mexico among others. One of the biggest responsibilities and greatest joys of legacy gifting is honoring and executing donor intent in the best way possible. Sandra Session-Robertson, Vice President of Development & Donor Relations, confides:

“That is the most humbling part of this job: you tell me how you want to be remembered after your death and what is meaningful to you, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that happens.”  

Supporting a specific cause you believe in during your lifetime is an act of thoughtfulness and care. Leaving a legacy gift that continues to improve the lives and well-being of this community demonstrates a commitment to the long-term future of New Mexico, its people, its animals, its surroundings. Lily Horwath, Director of Marketing and Communications, who has also participated in site visits during community grant cycles, notes that these endowments "start as a seed of caring and compassion for a specific cause and ultimately drive transformation down the road.”  

This January marked five years since Carla’s passing. Her friend Alexis says she still feels her presence and occasionally “sees” her around town. She clarifies — and  you can feel the love in her, saying, — “...Not see her as an apparition, but I catch flashes of her via traits such as eyeglasses, hairstyle, or laughter in women at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or even window shopping.” The Carla Freeman Animal Welfare Fund and The Carla Freeman Fund will keep Carla’s kind and open-hearted spirit around for many years to come as her gifts live on through the care and humane treatment of the animals that call New Mexico home and more.  

Carla with friends

Planning a legacy gift, as Carla did, is just one way to support direct service and collaborative efforts to improve outcomes in New Mexico. Donations of any size are welcome and warmly received and can be made directly here.

The Foundation's Community Grant Cycles provide funding opportunities twice a year for local nonprofits working to make an impact and improve outcomes in six fields of interest: Civic & Economic Opportunities, Health & Human Services, Animal Welfare, Arts & Culture, Education, and Environment. Community support enables the Santa Fe Community Foundation to conduct due diligence, attend site visits, build relationships with our nonprofit grantees, and manage as many as fifty volunteers who devote over 2,000 hours to the vetting process.  

The 2024 Fall Grant Cycle will open toward the end of July and run through August 2024. During this grant cycle, SFCF welcomes proposals from local nonprofits engaged in improving life in New Mexico through four fields of interest, including Animal Welfare.  

The Santa Fe Community Foundation is proud of the role we play in supporting important causes both today and beyond one’s life on earth. If you’re interested in talking more about what leaving a legacy gift looks like for you or making a contribution to support a cause you believe in now, please consider making an appointment with one of our team members. You can call us at 505.988.9715 or email us at


Photos from a 2023 Community Grant Cycle site visit with A Chance of a Lifetime
by Gabriella Marks

May 8, 2024
News & Stories

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