Santa Barbara-Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee Help the Needy

For the first time in 15 months of pandemic isolation, Santa Barbara and Puerto Vallarta Sister City Members hosted an in-person BBQ. The gathering was to replenish funds utilized to continue helping the Needy. Another goal of the event was to continue the support of a variety of Puerto Vallarta projects during the pandemic. Read about their efforts below.

Hosted by Marti Garcia and Board Member Gil Garcia, the barbecue was held in their backyard in downtown Santa Barbara with a capacity of 50 socially distanced members.

Santa Barbara’s sister city in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico experienced hardships throughout the pandemic with a significant loss of tourism-related jobs within the resort city. The Santa Barbara – Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee was determined in raising funds to help their friends in need.

From left to right: Marti Garcia, Santa Barbara-Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee Board President Sebastian Aldana, and Gil Garcia (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

The committee took on projects that would assist their sister city such as the fundraising of $30,000 to support Volcanoes Food Bank, which supplied meal ingredients to more than 500 economically disadvantaged families. These families were heavily impacted by the loss of tourism during the pandemic and the Santa Barbara committee dedicated their efforts into helping their neighbors bounce back. Since Volcanes is one of the poorest ares of Puerto Vallarta, the committee continues to fundraise in order to keep the families fed with basic foods until the end of the pandemic, which is estimated to be July or August.

Throughout the pandemic, the Santa Barbara-Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee continued their endless support of the Santa Barbara Physical Rehabilitation Clinic of Puerto Vallarta. The clinic was founded in 1988 by Sister City Committee Members that were dedicated to form a physical rehabilitation, multidisciplinary team to improve the quality of life for disabled children and low-income adults throughout the region. Located in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Hoetlera Norte, the clinic received solar panels and air conditioning as donations from the committee.

The Board President, Sebastian Aldana, thanked the committed members for their financial support and volunteerism in order to help those in need in Puerto Vallarta. Margaret Saavedra, a longtime committee member, announced that the committee will be planning a visit to Puerto Vallarta this year.

During the event, committee members participated in games, auctions and raffles, which were hosted by Emcee Yvonne Pederson. She also acted as the DJ of the event, playing music for all the guests. The barbecue menu, prepared by Chefs Carlo Velasco, Michael Hernandez, and other volunteers, included delicious foods such as tri-tip, chicken, vegetables, beans, potato salad, green salad, bread, and salsa. Anna’s Bakery also donated a wonderful apple pie.

The event was supported by the board of directors, which included President Sebastian Aldana, and members Margaret Saavedra, Emcee Yvonne Pederson, Carlos Velasco, Gil Garcia, Tony De Paco, Cheli Hidalgo, Carmen Flores, Mike Hernansez, Aileen Chambers, Alma Ruth Vaja, and Jacqueline Duran.

The Rotary Club of Puerto Vallarta assisted in building the clinic, but needed the fund to furnish the clinic, which resulted in the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara North to submit a grant request to Rotary International in order to provide the necessary medical equipment. The grant was approved and totaled up to $40,000.

Another clinic that receives support from the Sister City organization is the Health Clinic in Boca de Tomatlan. Due to scarcity of medical attention within the small communities near Boca de Tomatlan, there was only one volunteer nurse, Martha Lopez of Boca de Tomatlan, as the medical help in the area. This led to the Sister City Committee to begin establishing a medical clinic there.

Nurse Lopez and several local Boca citizens received permission from the eljido council which allowed them to secure land and develop their local clinic. The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara North and the Goleta Rotary Evening Club had contributed more than $4,000 and resulted with $40,000 in total funds. The Boca de Tomatlan Clinic serves neighboring communities such as Yelapa and Quimixto.

During the pandemic, the Sister City Committee raised about $1,300 to support the Aid for Families of Children with Cancer program in Puerto Vallarta. Part of Families for Children with Cancer supports 22 different families who have a child diagnosed with cancer in the Puerto Vallarta region. Donations from community volunteers are able to support care services to improve the quality of life for those children in need. THeir families are helped with economic support for majority of the high-cost needs of the children.

Approximately $1,000 in donations to the David “Marin” Garcia Zungia Disability Assistance Fund was provided for his medical bills. Zungia is the owner of the Islas de Marin Restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. He and his family are longtime active members of the Sister City program in Puerto Vallarta.

In addition, ten Sister City members continued to sponsor elementary and high school students with financial support through yearly scholarships.

In the next year, the Sister City Committee will celebrate its 50th anniversary, in which they will be recognized by a mosaic bench, created by Puerto Vallarta Artist Ayde Juarez. Nearly $6,000 was raised for the commemorative bench to be built in Lazaro Cardenas Mosaic Park, located in Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone.

To find out more information about the Santa Barbara – Puerto Vallarta Committee, or how to donate or become a member, visit their website or email [email protected].