Being thousands of miles away from their country does not prevent them from continuing their mission of solidarity. In this interview for PVAngels, J. R. Wilson, the Commander of Post 14 of the American Legion, tells of how they manage to help not only the veterans who live in Puerto Vallarta but also contribute to the development of organizations in the city that has welcomed them with open arms. Donations, volunteers and sponsors are the way to help them to achieve their goals.
We are pleased to once again introduce Victoria Jasler as our newest member of Team Angels. Vicky has just recently moved to Puerto Vallarta and is looking forward to getting involved in our community. She is an Argentinian journalist living in Puerto Vallarta and Specialist in Corporate Social Responsibility.
Vicky is currently in charge of our newest feature articles where she is conducting in-person interviews with our local non-profit organizations to give our readers a more in-depth look into the workings and sacrifices facing the daily challenge of running a service-based organization in bettering our community and helping those less fortunate.
As you read these frequent interviews, it is hoped that you will become involved with those organizations that touch your heart.
We invite you to send any requests for an interview to Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Legion was chartered in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the America's largest wartime veteran's service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in their communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to the veterans.
The Post 14 has been in Puerto Vallarta for around eight years now and it has around 100 members. Raising thousands of pesos in donations they help veterans and their families during times of need and also to nonprofit local charities. Their success depends entirely on active membership, participation and volunteerism. J.R. Wilson said: "The members believe in helping American veterans and they want to help other people. Most of the American Legion veterans live in The United States so they help there, we live in another country so we help here to the local people, just the way we would do back home."
What are the goals of the Post 14?
Our major goal is to take care of our own. American veterans living here in Puerto Vallarta are older and may have problems. If someone gets sick or dies we help them and their families. Or for example, if they need to go back to The United States and they have no money, having a good reason, we help them. Our second goal is to help the local community.
And how are these activities financed?
We get money from either donation or from special events that we host. We have two major events, one of them is called the Chili Cook Off and take place in February. It's an "all you can eat" chili feast, featuring recipes from some 20 popular PV restaurants and sponsors - all competing for trophies. They provide their own chili, so people pay a couple of hundred pesos to try them. Also, others donate prizes to be drawn during the event. We have live entertainment, four bands who donate their time. All the attendants - mostly American, but also many locals - dance, sing, and have a wonderful time.
How do you identify the projects or organizations that you work with?
People usually contact us. But the money we donate from the Chili Cook Off goes pretty much for the same organizations year after year. Some of them are Busca un Amigo, Center Screening Center, Santa Barbara Clinic, the orphanages Casa Hogar and Corazon de Niña, and Torpedos PV youth football team. We know that they all do a good job.
How do you do the follow up of the donated money?
We give them money and we ask them to come and tell us what they had used it for. But there are hundreds of needy organizations. We have to sort them out. We go with the same ones because we know they do a good job.
Is it only money donated?
We also help and participate in different projects. We help the organization in painting, plumbing, electrical, and masonry. Moreover, in some cases we get them some supplies they need.
Do you think there are more activities that this post could take care of?
I am 70 years old, and I am in the average age of the members. A lot of the guys are older, so they are tired and a lot of them have health issues. When we have a project and we need to do certain physical activities, we usually have a hard time to get people to join. Most of us live here with our wives, very few people live here with theirs kids. That could have helped.
Bearing in mind that this is a foreigner organization and nowadays we are used to hear in the news about the tense relationship between American and Mexican. Do you think this has affected your relationship? How do the local people receive your help?
You have to ask them, but I think the general feeling about the American Legion is very good, because we do a lot for the local community. It feels good to help people, to see their smiles and the Mexican people are so appreciative of everything you do for them. It is like magic, they are so thankful, and so happy that it makes you feel good.
Do you work together with any Government area?
Yes we do, with DIF (System for the Integral Development of the Family) which is a decentralized organization that designs and develops multidisciplinary programs of public social assistance, whose objective is to give attention and to serve the population that is in vulnerable situation.
They are very important. They bring us a lot of projects that we work with them. We went to the senior shelter the other day and they need a bathroom, and they need electricity we got in touch with DIF to talk with the city government to get them permission for water.
And what about the companies?
Companies work with us. Sometimes we jointly carry out some initiatives and we pool money for them. On the other hand, we also work a lot with the Jay Sadler Project, he is one of our members who gives a lot of money to the community.
What are the main needs that the organization has nowadays?
We need donations so we can do more projects. We need more volunteers so we can have people to help us in projects that require more energy and strength and we also need more partners. There are some local business that provide their places for free, money, and manpower. They do a lot. They support us. Any kind of support is needed.
What could you tell someone - either volunteers or a veteran - who has never gotten involved to encourage him to do it?
If you are a veteran from the US, please consider joining our group. There are probably hundreds of veterans in Puerto Vallarta and maybe they don't know about us, or maybe they don't want to join for any reason, but I would tell them that we want them as a part of our organization. We can synergize. One plus one equals three.
For further information, go to American Legion Post 14. If you would like to help or know of someone who would like to help - please contact Jim Mawdesley at email@example.com or J. R. Wilson at JRinMX@Gmail.com.
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If you would like to donate directly to the non-profits in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, here are some suggestions you may want to consider to help our local communities in this time of greatest need.