Corn Bagging

By VidaMaize 😉

Driving in rural southeastern Wisconsin recently I came across a sight I’ve never seen before: brown paper bags topped the stalks in a field of corn. What?! Was this the first step in early Halloween decorating? Instead of a corn maze were they going to draw jack-o-lantern faces on the bags? Playing cornhole bags is a popular yard game here; were these bags some sort of play on words? The above conjectures are a joke; I knew the bags had something to do with serious farming. So, I had to stop and ask the farmer what the paper bags were all about.

That’s how I met Jasper. He told me he was hand-pollinating the corn. I came to learn that he was basically chastity-belting corn stalks with paper bags: keeping the male and female parts of the corn under wraps to prevent errant cross-pollination. 

Jasper works for a seed breeder, and they cooperate internationally with those looking to enhance the nutritional value and hardy heritage of the grains we eat—corn, oats, sorghum, and amaranth, while increasing soil health. He introduced me to his colleague, Alexander, and their boss, Dr. Walter Goldstein, founder of the Mandaamin Institute, a non-profit agricultural research firm based in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Mandaamin is the Algonquin word for corn or the spirit of corn—a connection to so many indigenous gods of corn and fertility in this western hemisphere and a reminder of its importance in our world. Walter worked for over twenty-five years as Research Director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy prior to starting his institute. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Nutrition would seem to be the reason we eat. We all want to be healthy, and we love good tasting food. Yet, many of us grumble that the fruits and vegetables we eat today don’t taste as good as we remember, and our bodies suffer because food doesn’t contain the nutritional quality it used to. Our soils are degraded, and mass production of food today requires expensive chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and machinery. We have a running joke in our family that we will all show up on our cousins’ low-tech farm in Indiana after the zombie apocalypse. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, the supply chain breaks down quite easily, and secure, healthy food sources are paramount to our survival. The Mandaamin Institute’s program is the result of  49 growing seasons in Wisconsin, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii.  The objective: to naturally breed corn that is more nutritious, efficient and that is farmed in ways that leave our planet healthier. 

This is not only good news for our soil, water, and those of us who eat corn, but also for the animals who consume corn. He and his team discovered nutritional value traits hidden in old land race corn back in 2004, and nitrogen-fixing corn in 2009. The photos on their website of the difference in the bright orange yolks of the eggs laid by chickens who eat Mandaamin corn vs. GMO corn, and in the color of the skin of the chickens producing such carotene-rich eggs, is remarkable. They’ve produced nitrogen-efficient or “fixing” corn as shown in the photo below and have naturally nitrogen-rich corn varieties that have the inherent smarts to produce bacteria that are partially consumed by the plant, feeding it with minerals and proteins. Those bacteria encourage the plant’s roots to grow numerous and large root hairs. The plant ejects that bacterium into the soil, enriching it, and then takes the bacteria in once again with new roots. Those bacteria make their way into the new seed and are stored there  for the next generation. Thus, this corn is itself both a farmer and a seed breeder! Mandaamin also has varieties of corn that resist pollination from GMO pollen, a huge hurdle in organic and biodynamic farming.

“Big agrichemical farming uses lots of chemical nitrogen fertilizer but hardly uses crop rotations. Their practices deplete the fertility and nitrogen content of soils. Those nitrogen fertilizers contribute greatly to pollution of our water and the ocean and become potent greenhouse gasses. We have created a corn that may help to reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizers. Such N efficient corn may be a game-changer globally. Large agribusiness is striving to create N efficient corn through genetic engineering and patenting. We are striving to be first with a natural option. We believe that patenting natural nitrogen efficient/fixing corn is unethical. Therefore, we are sharing our research results with the public.” 

—Mandaamin website

Amazingly to me, Walter told me that in breeding ancient corn for modern soils, he has discovered that his nutritionally rich, hardy, soil-enhancing corn grows BETTER without fertilizers—including without manure! While that runs counter to gardening 101 principles that even I know, it is exciting stuff as these heritage plants naturally morph and reposition their own genomes in a relationship with the grower and the environment. They would sure seem to be just the seed I want on my cousins’ farm post-apocalypse!

Interestingly and typically, in my initial drive-by I had only noticed brown paper bags on the corn stalks—tassel bags. Visiting on foot the following day, we saw there were also white bags covering the ears (shoot bags), and learned that Jasper and Alexander use green and red tassel bags as well. The tassel bag colors are code for the process being used. Brown bags for their purposes indicate self-fertilizing (pollen from that same stalk is shaken onto the corn silk). Green bags are for sib mating sister plants in the row. Red bags designate crossing or cross-pollinating. The white shoot bags are used to cover the ear/silk so that it is not pollinated until that process purposefully occurs.

The process that we observed in the field, to my limited knowledge and observation skills, was this:

  1. As shoots develop and before tassels mature, its shoots are covered with a white waxed bag to prevent the silks from being pollinated. The bag must have plenty of room in it for the husks/silks/ear to grow and not pop the bag off. Interesting note: each pollinated silk produces a kernel of corn!
  2. Once a tassel matures sufficiently and develops anthers (pollen), it is covered with a bag that is tightly closed to contain the pollen. Jasper and Alexander used a staple gun to close the bags. There is usually a 2-to-3-day window when pollinating can occur, and it must be done in dryness.
  3. At the same time as the tassels are bagged, the white shoot bags are removed, and the husks and silks are trimmed. The shoot bag is then quickly replaced, to limit exposure to airborne pollen.
  4. The following day, the tassels are shaken into the tassel bag to collect the pollen, and the bag carefully removed. The shoot bag is removed to reveal an overnight growth of silks ready and waiting for pollination. For the self-pollination we witnessed, the pollen is sprinkled on the shoot (ear/silk) of that same stalk. The numbered tassel bag is then stapled securely over the pollinated shoot.
  5. Once the silks have dried and kernels have started to develop, the shoot bags will be removed.

They want to breed “synchronous plants,” those that develop pollen and silks at the same time. If a plant doesn’t, it will be ignored. Their plants are all organic, though they are not officially certified. The ears will be hand harvested.

I can tell you from personal experience that once that pollen gets shaken off the tassels, the bees come out in droves! They are very, very excited to smell all that fresh pollen, so it’s a good thing the shoots get covered again quickly and tightly.

Each of the paper bags has a date on it, so that when the ear is harvested, they will know when it was pollinated. Each range in the field is numbered, as is each row, and there are tags indicating those locations. Thus, it’s very easy to track progress.

I watched Jasper discard a shoot whose bag had fallen off and its silks exposed to the air; that’s no good for their testing purposes. The corn plant puts most of its energy into the top shoot or ear, so that is the one that they pay most attention to when covering. However, Mandaamin is working on corn that is more productive, minimum two ears per stalk, so they cover the shoots they see growing. I found it sad to learn that most corn produced today only has one ear per stalk! Very different from my youth. I was told that is why it’s now planted so much closer together than it was when I was a child.

I also watched him perform “surgery.” Jasper found a shoot whose silks were not exposed, and he had to cut back the husk a bit for them to gain freedom. He told me this is not ideal, but necessary. He then covered the shoot for pollination the following day.

Another memorable thing I witnessed was one ear of corn on the tassel of the plant! What? Even I know that’s not “right!” Turns out this was a hermaphrodite, produced by a sucker plant that lives off a main plant. I thought that was cool. Jasper says they leave those be, not covering them, as they are not useful for their research purposes.Another memorable thing I witnessed was one ear of corn on the tassel of the plant! What? Even I know that’s not “right!” Turns out this was a hermaphrodite, produced by a sucker plant that lives off a main plant. I thought that was cool. Jasper says they leave those be, not covering them, as they are not useful for their research purposes.

Finally, I learned that my beloved huitlacoche, that corn fungus that Mexicans cook up so deliciously and that I love in a cream sauce over chicken, grows here, too. Here it is called “smut” and is a sign of a corn plant out of balance—one which cannot control the fungus Ustilago, which naturally infects corn.

Mandaamin’s process of emergent evolution selects the best plants and grows them under hardship conditions: sandy soil, in the gravel left behind in a quarry, under severe drought. Locally here in southeast Wisconsin they experiment with about 20 acres each season; only three to four are hand-pollinated, the remainder are seed trials. They partner with traditional and organic farmers and a medium sized seed company called Foundation Organic Seed. They collaborate with Professor James White and his lab at Rutgers and with North Carolina State University. They do not use fertilizers but occasionally spread manure to maintain soil fertility. They have published their research in peer-reviewed scientific journals and base their approach on feedback from farmers obtained at the turn of the millennium in workshops with the Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Minnesota Organic Growers, and the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference.

Most of Mandaamin’s seed of old-time corn comes from the USDA, which he tells us has a fantastic collection of corn. The plant introduction station in Ames, Iowa is where Walter usually goes to get corn from anywhere in the world. Oats, wheat, and other small grains he obtains from the repository in Idaho. “These centers and their plant introduction system are one of the best things about this country. They have rich sets of seed varieties from all over the world, and very supportive and helpful people who help us identify races and their traits to aid our research. They also gift seed to people all over the world.”

Walter showed me corn that’s part Mexican chapalote—the oldest corn in North America, which they’ve bred for nitrogen efficiency. Mandaamin has winter nurseries in Puerto Rico and Chile, so breeding continues year-round. This is not seasonal labor. Jasper, for example, works year-round, working on research and development and preparing seed for planting.

Besides an ongoing quest for funding to continue operations, and talent committed to pursuing biodynamic and organic corn breeding, Mandaamin faces the dilemma of how to get their seed used by farmers while protecting their discoveries from the opportunism of other seed breeders who could pirate their hard work. They want to get their work out there, but don’t want to be stupid. They refuse to patent their work, though they do license it; they rely on an honor system based on the ability to genetically track their seed.

Humans have been cultivating new plant varieties to suit their purposes since farming began—plants suitable to local climates, flowers with new colors, drought- or pest-resistant crops, higher-yield varietals. It makes sense that we would care for plants in a way that makes them more of what we want and need. There are at least two ways of doing this.

  1. Hybrids are developed in the field using natural, low-tech methods. Hybridization from cross-pollination happens naturally in the wild. Classic open-pollination plant-breeding takes six to ten generations. Modern controlled crossing takes only one generation (F1). A belief frequently underlying this process is of a two-way relationship between the grower and the plant; one takes care of the other.
  2. Genetically modified (GM) varieties are created in a lab in combination with field work using complex technology such as gene splicing, which can mix genetic material from differing kingdoms such as bacteria and plants. GM seeds are also frequently implanted with pesticides or fertilizers. A belief frequently underlying this process is of a one-way relationship: plants provide sustenance.

Corn is a wild grass that has been selectively bred by humans since its domestication in Mexico over 10,000 years ago! That wild grass—teosinte—produced only 5-10 kernels per stalk, while modern corn can have over 500 kernels! Corn today is a staple food for billions of people worldwide and a source of livelihood for millions of farmers in hundreds of countries. It has hundreds of varieties with numerous colors and traits. Corn feeds humans as well as livestock, can be turned into ethanol, used for brewing beer, turned into high-fructose syrup, cooking oil, and even bio-plant-based plastics

The paper bags in the corn field are a way of testing and hybridizing corn in a controlled manner. Seed breeders like Jasper combine the scientific method with natural, simple yet very labor-intensive techniques to enhance the nutritional value of our food and improve soil health. Their techniques provide a natural alternative to GMO. 

“Contemporary industrial agriculture concentrates power, land and wealth in the hands of a few large corporations or corporate family farms. Contemporary farming is wiping out diversity (just the opposite of biodynamic farming) in the name of short-term profit. It will, we believe, ultimately undermine humanity’s ability to sustain a large population. Despite the argument that we need contemporary technology to feed the world, our founders instinctively knew large amounts of inorganic fertilizer would pollute the groundwater and the effects of pesticides on the environment would also affect insect, animal, and human health. 

Organic and biodynamic agriculture blend the older ways of farming while using modern research to showcase the best in agriculture and the best in human nature.”

—Michael Fields Agricultural Institute website

The problem with both F1 hybrids and GM plant varieties is that they create a dependency on seed companies because growers must purchase new seed every year. Newly developed GM formulas and hybrids are licensed for one-time use: farmers buy seed to plant yet cannot harvest productive seed from the crops they grow to produce more food. Our agricultural industrial complex has broken nature to recoup its research and development costs and make money, making it impossible to reproduce such seed naturally. In the case of Mandaamin, the farmers have demanded hybrids rather than open-pollinated varieties because they want the traits that hybrids provide.

Mandaamin is a labor of love, a non-profit that is looking out for our common good. They need donations and investment to continue their research. Please donate via their website or this link if you are able. If you know like-minded breeders or farmers, or are interested in a possible partnership, please contact Walter (+1-262-248-1533 or via email to wgoldstein@mandaamin.org) for more information on partnerships and support.

How can people learn about this type of farming? Walter told us that the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society (Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, some provinces in Canada) has a farmer-breeder club. Most university programs sadly do not teach this type of farming; working and apprenticing are the only way to really learn. He would like to organize a national association and start an educational and training program through that association. 

This method of agriculture is truly a blend of art and science; it represents a dedication to the understanding of being one with the planet. I am grateful to these brown paper bags in the field and to the men who tend them; it gives me hope for our planet’s and our future health. 

I am better off by having met these men, and I thank them for it. Through them I learned that I grew up just miles away from the oldest biodynamic farm in the USA—the Zinniker farm! I know we have at least two respected research institutes here locally, aimed at improving our health and that of our planet via better farming. I learned about an awesome sustainable farming school run by an incredible Norwegian immigrant to this area: FarmWise Education‘s founder and Walter’s wife, Bente Goldstein. And I sincerely hope that some positive connection and collaboration will come from this article.

House of Good Vibrations!

Today we handed over the keys to the “House of Good Vibrations,” as I now call it, thanks to the love and generosity of over 80 individuals, couples and families who built and furnished the small blue “Home for Juan Manuel!”

18 people attended an appreciation ceremony this morning, during which the new owners, Don Rodolfo and Juan Manuel, expressed their thanks to the VidaMaz community. Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo both were completely overwhelmed with your generosity. They both cried several different times and were at a complete loss for words. You truly have changed their lives and filled them with hope! They plan to move in tomorrow. Many people arrived today bearing food and gifts to help the men settle into their new home.

One of the attendees recorded the “giving of the keys” ceremony on her cell phone. Sadly the wind was rather gusty at times, but I believe  you can hear most of it. The full video is below:

We first announced this project to build a small house on November 25, 2020. Initially it was to be a 3 x 4 meter home with an outdoor bathroom and kitchen. Since Juan Manuel is on crutches (he has only one leg) and blind, we felt the home needed indoor plumbing, and you agreed. We ended up building a home that is 4 x 6 meters, so still very small, but very livable and much better than anything they would have dreamed possible. You even helped us install hot water! You all donated kitchen sink, cupboards, refrigerator, microwave, utensils, bathroom sink, toilet, shower, mirror, a shelf, a trundle bed, two tables, four chairs, a ceiling fan, boiler, a tinaco, concrete, gravel, doors, windows, septic tank… you truly rocked this! You gave monetary donations of 20 to 32,000 pesos. Thank you!

Every step of the way, if we had difficulties, you came through to help. We had been searching for weeks for a trundle bed. Two men will live here, but there is not enough room in the house for two single beds and a user of crutches to move around. Last week we kindly received the donation of the donor’s grandson’s beloved, solid wood trundle bed with two mattresses AND handmade quilts! Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo were over the moon when they saw it. Zata installed the front walkway this week, but, of course, most of Mazatlán has been without water this week. How to make concrete for the stairs? No worries; we figured it out.

In the end, we came in exactly with the money needed. Greg and I personally paid for a bonus to thank Zata, our albañil; without his honesty and dedication I can only imagine how difficult this project might have been.

Total Spent: 130,795 pesos or US$6507

Construction: 94,886
Refrigerator: 1225
Boiler, install and protection: 7784
Walkway and yard work: 14,300
Electrical from street: 12,600

The amount above is significantly higher than our original estimate for this project, but that estimate was for a basic structure only: no windows, doors, plumbing, electrical nor interior furnishings. Even with the ease with which it functioned—your generous donations, no theft, an honest and dependable builder—it was way more work than any of us imagined it would be. Feeling the joy and happiness of these two men today, however, made it more than worthwile. I trust you are happy to have participated.

The full story of the building of this house is right here. You can read it from the beginning if you are interested:

  1. Nov 25: My introduction of Juan Manuel and his father, plus asking you to help with the project
  2. Dec 1: An initial budget plus 22 donations
  3. Dec 8: Our first hiccups: re-examining the initial plans and having to find a new builder
  4. Dec 13: Architectural plans and a wonderful new builder
  5. Dec 16: Ground breaking!
  6. Dec 21: Foundation and plumbing during the second week of construction
  7. Dec 24: A Christmas Message from Juan Manuel plus thank you’s to the new neighbors
  8. Jan 2: Don Rodolfo’s first glimpse of his new home
  9. Jan 10: The roof is up!
  10. Jan 18: 87,000 pesos collected, but trouble paying our builder
  11. Jan 26: Exterior is plastered
  12. Feb 1: Interior plaster, delays on the windows and doors prevent us proceeding
  13. Feb 18: House is painted; videos of interior, exterior and the view from the roof
  14. Feb 25: Kitchen is in!
  15. Mar 8: Refrigerator, boiler and an invitation to donors

Bless you all! I trust your heart is bursting with joy! Pretty much everyone who attended the ceremony this morning remarked at how moved they felt, how honored they were to be able to make a difference in someone’s lives, and how wonderful it is to be in the company of people committed to making this world a bit sweeter.

The Kitchen is In!

You all are absolutely the BEST! Thank you for your generosity in making it possible for us to build a Home for Juan Manuel!

In our last post to you we showed you the newly painted outside of the house with its doors and windows in place, including several videos. Today I am happy to report that we have a working kitchen installed, using donated wooden cabinet doors and a steel sink and building a base around them for kitchen storage and a counter to cook on. Woot woot! We also have water and electricity functioning in the house! Zata has built a very basic back patio using extra block and gravel, where a hose bib and donated washboard will be installed so Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo can wash their clothes and the water will run off or soak in rather than make mud. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

A good friend of mine has offered to donate a brand new refrigerator. Fingers crossed! So, all we seem to be missing are:

  •  A small boiler for hot water—might you know someone who has one???
  • And two single beds (a trundle bed would be ideal) or at least single mattresses, as anything larger will not fit in this very small home.

Please help if you can. Ways to donate to support this project are listed at the bottom of the very first post in the series.

Once the above projects are finished, we still need to paint the interior. Some work remains on the septic tank as well.

My hope is that next time I write to you it will be to invite you to the masked and socially distanced celebration at which we hand over the keys to the home’s new owners! Bless you all!!!

COVID Update Mazatlán 2

0a8e9588-fdf1-4599-aa96-304b31832dadI believe it’s time for an update on COVID-19 here in Mazatlán. I have been working so hard to help out and these posts take time, but I realize getting information to you is overdue. Our economies need to reopen; our people need to work to support their families. My hope is we can do so sanely, smartly, wisely, effectively.

Throughout this crisis, official figures and those reported on the ground by medical professionals have differed significantly. Doctors at our three public hospitals tell me they estimate 1000 people in Mazatlán are currently infected with COVID-19, and of that number 800 are asymptomatic. We need to take care, please; even if you are not sick, please shelter at home if you can, wear a mask when you are out and maintain a safe distance from others.

From the perspective of our public hospitals and their medical staff (ISSSTE, IMSS and the new General Hospital), we are in a horrendous crisis. The federal government has us at MAXIMUM RISK right now. While fortunately in Mazatlán we have had enough beds and equipment, the new General Hospital, for example, tells me they are running with only 30% of their normal medical staff! And during a crisis, when you’d think it would be all hands-on deck! Such under-staffing is due to some staff being infected, but more to people quitting, refusing to come to work, or taking leave and citing pregnancy or underlying conditions. There is too much work, the stress levels are through the roof, medical workers are scared, and they are dropping out in droves. The reason so many medical professionals refuse to work is because they do not have the personal protective equipment (PPEs) they need to stay safe and healthy. Their work also requires them to live separately from their families during this pandemic, if they are able, or to risk infecting loved ones if they are not careful.

The new General Hospital is running with only 30% of their normal medical staff.

Yes, I agree with many of you: the federal, state and municipal governments should be providing that gear to public hospitals. I suppose they are doing their best; it’s not my role to comment. The bottom line is that our medical staff do not have the protective gear they need. I ask them to take photos of the staff with the gear we provide them, as proof to all of you that your money goes directly to helping them. In nearly every photo taken there is at least one person without appropriate gear, risking his/her life for our welfare. It is heartbreaking.

So many of you have been doing amazing and wonderful work during this time to help out our local community. Local businesses are donating protective equipment, food and money. Many individuals have donated to Mazatlán Comparte, a volunteer position I’ve held nearly full-time for the past six weeks—100% of those donations go to buy either food for the Food Bank or medical supplies for our local public hospitals. Many of you are making masks, face shields or desk shields and donating them to those who need them, which is terrific. Others are helping out at shelters or feeding the needy. Whatever you are doing, bless you, bless you, bless you. And if you can do more, please do. Now is the time. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

This crisis has brought out the best and the worst in people. For each of you who is feeding the needy, we see a grandmother kicked out of her home because her family doesn’t want to nurse her or become infected, or a single woman forced to leave her own home in a wealthy community because, instead of offering to bring their neighbor food and medical supplies, her neighbors “want to be able to walk their dogs freely without fear of contagion.” Today the first baby with COVID is in IMSS Mazatlán, but she is fortunately doing well.

How much PPE (Personal Protective Equipment for medical professionals) is needed?
A few generous people who have donated money to Mazatlán Comparte ask me, “surely you have enough equipment now?” Let me try to explain the insatiable appetite of Personal Protective Equipment. EACH medical professional on a DAILY BASIS needs:

  • 1 KN95 mask
  • 10 pairs of nitrile gloves
  • 10 pairs of latex gloves
  • 1 surgical gown
  • 1 pair of boot covers
  • 1 coverall (now we are buying reusable ones which can last up to 5 days)

Obviously, that’s quite a bit of needed gear. In one week, a medical professional will need six KN95 masks, 60 pairs of gloves, six surgical gowns and one coverall.

But the real problem comes in the quantity of people at each hospital who interact with COVID patients and thus need PPEs. At our IMSS General Hospital Zone 3, for example, on a daily basis 199 medical staff interact with COVID patients and need PPEs! That number includes 43 doctors, 97 nurses, 10 assistants, 11 social workers, 15 janitors, 12 stretcher-bearers and 11 triage doctors. That means that just ONE of our THREE main public hospitals here in town on a DAILY basis requires:

  • 200 KN95 masks
  • 2000 pairs of nitrile gloves
  • 2000 pairs of latex gloves
  • 200 surgical gowns
  • 200 pairs of boot covers
  • 200 coveralls

The new General Hospital tells me they need PPEs daily for 110 professionals who attend COVID patients. ISSSTE hospital needs PPEs for 190 professionals daily. That’s a total of 500 medical professionals who DAILY need PPEs to treat current COVID patients here in Mazatlán; the quantities are untenable.

Every day in Mazatlán’s public hospitals, 500 medical professionals need PPEs to treat COVID patients.

To put this all into perspective, with your very generous help, in April and May Mazatlán  Comparte supported local medical staff with donations of:

  • 820 KN95 masks
  • 190 coveralls
  • 37 pairs of boot covers
  • 36 boxes of 250 nitrile gloves (4500 pairs)

Today we will purchase 500 additional KN95 masks at the miraculous price right now of 104 pesos each. These donations are wonderful! There is no doubt they have saved lives. And yet, from a larger perspective, they are a sad drop in the bucket. The longer this pandemic continues, the more PPE is needed; it’s insatiable. That’s why we need to keep the curve from spiking by reopening wisely and doing what each of us can to prevent the spread of the virus.

Difficulties/Challenges with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)
Last time I shared with you how challenging it has been to help. Prices of many PPEs have skyrocketed, due both to demand and to greed/price-gouging (surgical gowns normally cost 30 pesos and now are up to 160 pesos each with IVA). Many of the PPEs for sale are counterfeit and won’t work properly, so we require vigilance at every step of the purchase process and verification of every shipment upon receipt by medical professionals. Finally, the PPEs can be very difficult to find, though thankfully over the past weeks that has eased a bit. We now have a stable of trusted providers who are dedicated to selling us verified protective equipment at fair prices; let’s hope that continues. The problem is that prices of some needed items can skyrocket, or become unavailable, so it’s always a challenge. And the needs vary, too, as material is received from federal, state and municipal authorities. At Mazatlán Comparte we give the PPEs that the hospitals most need at the moment to the hospitals that are most in need. During a week ISSSTE might receive a shipment of coveralls and not need them for a couple of weeks, while IMSS might be in desperate need of masks that we can provide.

The second challenge has been in getting the PPEs to those in need. Unbelievably, especially in the beginning, there were medical professionals who resold some of the donations received (none of Mazatlán Comparte’s, thanks to careful teamwork), or handed them out to their friends at work rather than just to those working with COVID patients. At Mazatlán Comparte, we have team members from the IMSS, ISSSTE and new General Hospitals who are in charge of COVID professionals and who ensure the PPEs we provide are used for exactly the purpose intended.

Protect a Medical Professional for One Week: 2500 pesos. That amount will purchase everything that person needs for a week of work: hooded, reusable coverall, KN95 masks, nitrile and latex gloves, surgical gowns and boot covers.

How Can You Help?

  1. Please wear a mask when you are out and about, as the government recommends. This protects you and those around you. Please wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer.
  2. Please do not use medical grade equipment for non-medical uses! Using medical-grade overalls and KN95 face masks to spray bleach on the malecón or to sanitize cars is overkill and deprives our medical personnel of vital material. Neither is required for day-to-day use by normal people like you and me. If you have medical-grade material, please consider donating it to a hospital.
  3. Maintain social distance as the government recommends. Stay vigilant that the bank you go to, the restaurant you’re visiting, are following sanitary protocols and, if not, get out of there.
  4. Reach out to neighbors who are alone; offer to bring them what they might need.
  5. Stay calm and centered; don’t give in to fear. This is a virus; an infection is very painful, but what we are doing is trying to prevent the curve from spiking. We want to reopen our economies, resume our lives, but let’s do so smartly.
  6. Donate: Mazatlán Comparte has systems in place to ensure that the PPEs we buy are functional. We also get better prices, due to buying in quantity and coordinating amongst multiple hospitals and cities. KN95 masks, for example, have varied in price to us from between 121 and 71 pesos per mask, while they tend to be much costlier on the open market. We buy reusable medical-grade hooded coveralls for 350 pesos each; again, much higher on the open market.

Protect a Medical Professional Campaign
Mazatlán Comparte has a new campaign: Protect a Medical Professional. There are several options. The amounts below will purchase everything that person needs for a week of work: hooded, reusable coverall, KN95 masks, nitrile and latex gloves, surgical gowns and boot covers. Remember that just in Mazatlán’s public hospitals, we need PPEs for 460 medical professionals every week!

  • For one month: 10,000 pesos
  • For one week: 2500 pesos

Or, you can help by donating smaller amounts. A week of the following for one medical professional:

  • Surgical gowns: 1120 pesos
  • KN95 masks: 700 pesos
  • Reusable hooded coverall: 350 pesos

Or, one surgical gown and a pair of boot covers (for one professional for one day): 200 pesos

To donate for medical gear: Donate to Hospice Mazatlán, I.A.P. with the comment “Mazatlán Comparte” to distinguish that your donation goes to combat COVID-19. http://www.hospicemazatlan.org/donativos/

To donate food: Donate to Banco De Alimentos Mazatlán Iap with the comment “Mazatlán Comparte” to indicate that your donation go to COVID-19 relief. https://www.paypal.me/BAMXMAZATLAN

Other Ideas
Mazatlán Comparte is also thinking to do a series of online auctions. That could be fun for everyone involved. Might you have a skill that you could share? Say, cooking a gourmet dinner for four people, and we will deliver it to the purchaser? Or maybe your company could donate something it provides? Cases of wine, kilograms of coffee, boxes of frozen shrimp and scallops? If you do, please let me know.

Bless you all! I know many retired folks are on fixed incomes and find it difficult to help. Many of you help friends and family. Whatever you do, thank you! I pray you stay healthy and well, and that as a community we become stronger together!

Help the Homeless

Flyer_AmigosSanJosemaría_2020_PRINT_Page_1There are so many people in Mazatlán reaching out in awesome ways to help their neighbors. One of them is Amparo López, of the Albergue San Josémaría. The shelter feeds hundreds every day and provides temporary housing for to up to 15 people. They have three locations: the cafeteria, a house at Melchor Ocampo 523 downtown, and a home for the elderly and mentally ill.

Amparo called me today asking for help. The house on Melchor Ocampo is at over-capacity with 16 people residing there right now, and two more people arrived today asking for a place to stay. She desperately needs another home to house people in during this crisis, as she doesn’t want to force people onto the streets. If you have a home available, please won’t you reach out? Her phone number is 669-123-3539. The house can be completely empty; she has cots, sheets and pillows. It can be located anywhere in Mazatlán.

Amparo is also desperately requesting used men’s clothing. Any clothing will help, but she is especially needing men’s. And, of course, your donation of tortillas, eggs, any sort of food or money, will help, too. Flyer_AmigosSanJosemaría_2020_PRINT_Page_2I know many of my posts lately have been about helping out. I’m sorry about that. It is insane how many people are unemployed and hungry right now. It’s our time to help if we can. Thank you all and bless you!

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