The Vulcan Café will be more than a kitchen. “The vision for the café was that it would become a space where people could casually meet without having to reserve the space and also allow for a larger food prep area for events,” shares our former PCL board chairperson, Ruth Bouldes who was part of the early planning of the expansion and worked directly with getting the donation.
Dr. Doris Fields, our present PCL board chairperson, furthers that vision to say that the Vulcan Café will be “open and accessible for communal gatherings whenever there is access to the library collection and/or meeting spaces.”
She imagines the space could be used for smaller gatherings and conversations where folks can play table games, such as jigsaw puzzles, board games, etc. It will include a refrigerator (with an ice maker!), a convection microwave oven, tables and chairs suitable for all ages, and that revered essential worker: the coffee pot.
Live Long and Prosper
Although there are whispers that there might be a Star Trek theme incorporated into the space (every pun intended), the Vulcan Café actually owes its name to the Vulcan Foundation, the charitable arm of the Vulcan Materials Company (VMC).
Many of us are familiar with VMC here in Placitas. What we may not know is that they answered the call to help with the building of our expansion with a generous donation. In fact, the original request was for $30,000, but upon further discussion, they increased their donation to $50,000, which entitled them to naming rights. (BTW, our breezeway reading room is waiting for your or your group’s name!)
The Vulcan Foundation is no stranger to supporting various efforts in our community, as well as in all the communities where their facilities are located. Their mission statement proclaims that “Vulcan will be a good corporate citizen in each community in which we operate. We will support and take an active part in public and charitable projects.”
A reflection of that mission expressed itself earlier this year, when there was a call to action amongst the employees of the company in response to the unprecedented impact of the pandemic. They compelled an extra 1 million dollars to be used for COVID relief in their communities, as well as extra monies specifically earmarked for social justice programs.
Tyler K. Lowe, Manager of Community and Government Relations in the Southwest and Mountain West Divisions for VMC, emphasizes that they take their place in their communities seriously and want their neighbors to know that they are more than the mysterious facility hidden behind the sign. “We’re a collection of people from the community and we take pride in our work and our community. Our employees work here for a long time and we want to be good neighbors.” To that end, he encourages neighbors to please do contact them should they have any questions, concerns, or just want to learn more about what they do.
Locally, in Placitas alone, they have contributed everything from sand for holiday farolitos (which you will usually find available by their entrance on Frontage in December), as well as sand to fill the playground at our local preschool, Mothers’ Day Out (MDO), to larger donations like helping to sponsor the annual FunRacer, which benefits PCL, MDO, and KUPR.
They’ve also helped to sponsor our library’s children’s summer reading program, as well as support for establishing the library’s vital WiFi connection. Just recently, they connected with Bernalillo Public Schools (BPS) to try to help address the challenges of internet connectivity, and therefore access, for so many of our kids.
In addition to Placitas, Algodones, and Bernalillo, BPS’s diverse service area extends throughout seven Pueblo communities. Back in the pre-COVID days, students rode the bus from all parts, its farthest stop being at Cochiti Pueblo, a whopping thirty miles away from the high school. The issue of connectivity in rural areas is complex; however, in an effort to help close the daunting “homework gap,” the Vulcan Foundation has pledged $25,000 to purchase hot spots for students so that every youngster might have a better chance at the access they need to connect to their education.
A Vulcan By Any Other Name
Vulcan Materials Company is the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates, which include crushed stone, sand, and gravel, amongst others. The materials they produce are used in nearly all forms of construction – from roads, bridges, and ports to all types of residential and commercial buildings.
Lowe sees their work helping to build structural foundations as a metaphor to what this donation supports at PCL: “Especially in an area like Placitas, a library can be a true gathering place that helps create a strong foundation of knowledge and learning for people of all ages in the community.” VMC’s roots go back to 1909 as a family-owned construction materials company in Alabama called Birmingham Slag.
After several growth opportunities over the years, Eisenhower’s Federal Highway Program took its progress to another level. In 1956, they merged with New Jersey’s Vulcan Detinning Company, which enabled Birmingham Slag to become a publicly-traded company under Vulcan’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange. This access to more markets further helped it grow exponentially. The newest iteration was called Vulcan Materials Company and the name has stuck.
As it turns out, serendipity was at play with this name, as its corporate home in Birmingham is also home to the Vulcan Park and Museum, which boasts the largest cast iron statue in the world and is its city symbol, a strong showcase of their iron and steel industry roots. The statue depicts the Roman god Vulcan, god of fire and forge, and was created as the city’s proud entry for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (informally known as the St. Louis World’s Fair). Representing the “mineral riches and manufacturing capabilities” of Birmingham, it was awarded one of the Fair’s coveted “Grand Prizes.” Although not directly affiliated with Vulcan Park, VMC is a large presence in Birmingham. “Everyone in Birmingham either works for or is related to someone who works for Vulcan,” informs Lowe. These connections further cement Vulcan’s name to their home community.
Una Placita Para Todos
The Vulcan Foundation’s donation to our library also helps connect them to our community. It helps make good on their mission to “support and take an active part in public and charitable projects,” and we look forward to seeing more of our neighbor’s generous participation in supporting efforts in Placitas!
With the addition of the Vulcan Café, there will be yet another space for neighbors to gather in the library. The unparalleled set of circumstances that have kept us socially distanced is a stark reminder of how vital communal connections are. We are hopeful that it will be safe to gather together again real soon, and we are excited to have this space ready and waiting for all of us!
Photos of Vulcan Café: renderings (Huitt-Zollars); under construction (E. Potter); Vulcan Park statue in Birmingham, AL (Wikipedia).