By Mac McCormick
On Christmas Even 2009, the three caravans of five cars each made their annual trek to the little homes just north of the town of Guadalupe Victoria in Baja, Mexico. The term, "homes", is more than a little stretch. Dwellings are made of old wood pallets, tin roofs, a piece of fabric to cover their windows and doors and the only sanitation facilities are the outhouses in the front yard. The running water is limited to the irrigation ditch in the back yard. It is in that ditch that the visitor can regularly see the women doing their wash on old scrub boards. It is from this same irrigation ditch that the household carries their hygiene water in 5-gallon buckets. The drinking water is from the spigot on the corner a couple of blocks down the dirt road.
Chris and Cathy Christensen served their senior LDS mission in Sonora and Baja Mexico. They admit, though, there are occasional living quarters that resemble the conditions of 'our irrigation bank', but they have never seen the quantity of homes like we visit just north of Guadalupe Victoria. Without exception, everyone who has traveled with us on those Christmas Eves agrees, this is where our contributions are most needed on an ongoing basis.
Since Cathy has promoted herself to Chairman (woman) of the board, appointed Mac McCormick, President and we jointly drafted Avey Tebbs as Executive Vice President we decided to have an annual debriefing. We had such meeting on December 30th. We thought you might be interested in the bottom line.
Yes, those occupants of the canal bank are still in need. It is like the Savior said, "...ye have the poor with you always (Mark 14:7)." Not limited to the first-time, comments were, "This experience is humbling. I wish all my children and grandchildren could see how grateful these impoverished families are." Other oft heard comments include:
"I wish we could do more."
"Did you see that sweet lady's smile when she got the red knit cap/ that quilt/ those hot pads?" "How could someone not be touched when at our last stop they all sang "Feliz Navidad" to us?".
Quilts- Arizona West RV Park has been our single greatest supporter of tied quilts. They let us know that 2009 was their last year to assist us. "Most of our quilters do not come down anymore; consequently, you cannot depend on us in the future as you have in the past."
We have taken this as an indication to slightly shift gears. Cathy's Kids will still continue to be grateful for any quilts, afgans, etc., donated to the cause, but we have decided to buy fleece blankets when they come on sale at Wal-Mart. One of our participants has a daughter who works at Wal-Mart. LaRee is going to start making phone calls to the committee to take advantage of those sales. We have bought them in the past for $2 each. Not as elegant but certainly a gesture of our concern for their warmth and comfort.
Caps & Scarves- We have discovered many make pot holders, knitted caps and carves while watching TV. Those items are always treasured. The only problem we have is that there are too many of those caps that are even too small for a preemie. Keep up the good work. Also, we occasionally discover a winter vendor closing out his stock of ball caps for $.50 each. If anyone runs into a situation like that, BUY THEM! If this is a personal financial sacrifice, do not be embarrassed to ask Mac for a reimbursement. We have cash donations for exactly those types of purchases.
School Suppliers- When you see an opportunity to take advantage of a closeout sale on these products after school begins, again, spiral notebooks, pencils and sharpeners will go a long way. As for backpacks (a real winner), we can usually pick those up here in Yuma at the Dollar Store.
Hygiene- I mentioned that our targeted people are very clean, in spite of their impoverished conditions. From Mamas to bebes, they are aware of cleanliness being next to Godliness. They all speak the same word whether in Spanish or English, Champu or Shampoo. Outside of the young boys asking for soccer balls, shampoo is the most often requested single item. Here again, unless you find a hotel changing its name and needing to get rid ofthose little bottles at not cost to us, Cathy, Avey and Mac can get these hygiene items at the dollar stores here in Yum anad save additing them to your usually overloaded cars on the trip south.
Animals & Dolls- These items are easily found in all combinations everywhere from garage sales to thrift stores. Unfortunately, we cannot use many of the donated items in this category. Animals 3-fee high are too big to carry. The tiny stuffed animals you may see hiding on the dashboard of an RV are too small, except for a few infants. We are looking for clean teddy bear sized animals, and dolls clean and ready to give away. Any new looking dolls from Barbie to Betsy Wetsy will be accepted and utilized.
Cars- Not to look a gift horse in the mouth- the wooden cars we have received in the past are truly a labor of love. They are very much appreciated by us, but not as enthusiastically by the boys. They go wild for the little Match Box or Hotwheels cars. For those who love to create in wood (I am one of you), the Board of Directors suggested we would like to sample the reception of the same sized wooden trains.
Balls- When you mention balls to the boys, just be prepared to run for your life. Just like kids anywhere in the world, balls always get attention. Unfortunately, used inflatable balls are not worth sorting. One out of ten might hold air through the day. If I had my way (as a giver and receiver) we would rather see all the used softwballs we can get. With ball gloved priced out of practicality, hardballs do not get the use of softballs. Along with softballs, bats (new or used) are always at a premium for us. At $15-20 each, your money could go further in other areas of focus.
The most covered of all are soccer balls. If anyone doubts that statement, I can share with the reader, while handling out the limited number of soccer balls I had, I felts like a running back in the NFL. I literally had 20-30 boys tugging, grabbing, screaming and doing anything you could imagine to get a soccer ball. It is the only time you will see that kind of aggressiveness from these usually polite , well-mannered receipients. If you can find new #5 soccer balls at $5 or less, I will personally reimburse you up to 30 balls.
Everyone who participated this year was grateful for the experience, especially those who invited their children and grandchildren to join us. This year was better than last and next year will be better yet. Thanks to donations from those interested in seeing wher eyour money goes, we will continue this wonderful labor of love for years to come.
We, Cathy, Avey and I wish to thank you for your support in the past and participation in the future. We are about the Lord's work.
God bless you all, as we look forward to bringing a little Christmas joy to those most in need.
-Cathy's Kids' Committee
P.S. from the Editor: Photos are coming soon!