I trust you all are enjoying wonderful holidays, and that 2018 will bring you much health and joy.
This year as we handed out chickens and food to over 2500 needy families, the most popular items— other than the food, of course—were the blankets and tools! We had a few drills, some hand tools, and a couple of electric tools, and my oh my did this make the men happy! Fortunately we had 80 blankets, thanks to the generosity of one donor and the intelligence and kindness of an expat couple who traveled to Guadalajara to buy them. If we had had 800, people would have been thrilled. We chose the elderly most in need as recipients of the very soft and warm blankets. Click on any photo to view it larger or watch a slideshow.
The spinners and the balls were just some of the many toys that our nieces bought with the proceeds from the sale of their brownies. Lots of local children donated their gently used toys, so this year we were blessed to be able to make over 300 children very happy. Perla and Brisa, the two neighborhood girls who have accompanied us the past five years joined in again; they have gotten really good and bringing Christmas cheer to those in need. Baby things are also very popular: diapers, clothes, blankets.
Our group handed out food, clothing, shoes and toys in three places this year: Rincón de Mazatlán (in Colonia Universo/Ébano), El Basurón (the city dump) and Rancho de los Niños. We felt especially blessed that it was just our group this year: our family, our good friends the Hernández, and friends of ours and theirs. It rocked to be together with loved ones on Christmas bringing smiles to the faces of everyone from 90 to 3 months!
We tried a new method of handing things out that worked wonderfully. As you can imagine, people get anxious and over-eager, and that makes for lots of confusion if we don’t manage things well. Well, we lined up our heavily-laden trucks and cars as usual: chickens first, then despensas/food, followed by toys. Once all that was given out, we opened up the clothes, displaying them on the ground on sheets as if in a store, and keeping the line moving steadily.
We announced the plan to everyone ahead of time, so that those who wanted clothes would stick around. They were all lined up, the community leaders had made sure of that, and then our volunteers lined up as well, forming a human chain or wall between those in the line and the gifts. At first we felt awkward, but it worked beautifully! No more cutting the line, everyone got something, it felt organized and there was happiness galore. Bless all our volunteers and their smiling faces and love-filled hearts!
We had so many clothes and shoes this time that, despite serving over 350 families, we had extra! I especially loved how everyone tried on shoes to make sure they fit, leaving them for others if they didn’t, and then glowed with happiness when they found the perfect pair of leather flip flops or high heels. We packed up the leftover clothing and shoes and left them with the community leaders to hand out to those in need who couldn’t make our event on Christmas Eve morning.
People really love blankets and other bedding, including sheets and pillows. They love pots and pans and kitchen things; most have outdoor kitchens and these items don’t last long. If you have any extra tools you don’t use, or see any at garage sales this summer and you drive down, please bring them! My one great sadness this year was a gentleman who showed up at 11:30 with a ticket for a chicken AND food, but we’d already handed it all out. He didn’t want toys or clothes, and in his disappointment was very upset with us. We had asked them to show up at 8:30, so he was late. But, he really was looking forward to the chicken. I didn’t have any cash on me to give him, and he left in a huff. God bless him; I do hope something else happened to make his Christmas beautiful.
We started loading at Quince Letras about 6am. We are a multinational group of locals and expats, including dozens of young adults, many of whom have been doing this since they were kids and who now bring their friends—the next generation. I love watching them grow in strength of character and love each year. We also have a solid group of children who join in to help. We form bucket brigades or rally lines to load the trucks with food, toys and clothes, then set out on different routes to reach people all the way to Villa Unión. This year we also served the community of desplazados, those displaced by violence in the Sierras; I was thrilled with that! After loading all the trucks and cars, we form a large circle to say a prayer, and then we are off!
Our group first went to the Basurón, then Rincón de Mazatlán, and finished up visiting Rancho de los Niños, where we all enjoyed playing with the disabled kids. Hugging and loving on them made for a perfectly wonderful end to our Christmas Eve morning. We saw the new buildings that are being built for Rancho de los Niños by Back to Back Ministries, including a physical therapy pool. The new digs look great and should be ready early in the new year!
THANK YOU ALL immensely, for participating in the myriad ways you do! We look forward to seeing you again next year. I have written lots of stories and posted many photos of this event over the past 16 years. Just search for “pollos” or “chicken” in the search box if you’d like to see more. And remember, details can be found at www.VidaMaz.com/Pollos