Marti Garcia, left, Santa Barbara-Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee board president Sebastian Aldana and board member Gil Garcia at a barbecue event hosted by the Garcias. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)
The Santa Barbara-Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee recently reconvened in person for the first time in 15 months because of the COVID-19 shutdowns. A barbecue event was held in Gil and Marti Garcia’s backyard in downtown Santa Barbara, and it was at capacity at 50 socially distanced members.
Although members of the nearly 50-year-old organization weren’t able to meet in person during the past year, they kept busy helping their needy neighbors south of the border in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, which was hard-hit during the pandemic because of the significant loss of tourism-related jobs in the resort city.
One project that the group accomplished was to raise $30,000 to support the Volcanes Food Bank, which supplied meal ingredients to more than 500 families who have been economically devastated by the loss of tourism-related jobs because of the pandemic. The group continues fundraising to send enough to keep the families fed with basic foods until the end of pandemic, which they estimate will be July or August, when they hope tourists and jobs will return. Volcanes is one of the poorest areas of Puerto Vallarta.
Board president Sebastian Aldana thanked the assembled members for their financial support and volunteerism to help residents in Puerto Vallarta.
“This money is helping a lot of people,” he said.
Longtime committee member Margaret Saavedra announced that the group is planning its annual visit to Puerto Vallarta this year.
Emcee Yvonne Pedersen kept the event lively with games, acting as the DJ, and hosting the auction and raffles. The barbecue menu included tri-tip and chicken (prepared by chefs Carlos Velasco, Michael Hernandez and other volunteers), vegetables, beans, potato salad, green salad, bread and salsa, and apple pie donated by Anna’s Bakery.
Also supporting the event was the board of directors, including president Aldana and members Saavedra, Pedersen, Carlos Velasco, Gil Garcia, Tony De Paco, Cheli Hidalgo, Carmen Flores, Mike Hernandez, Aileen Chambers, Alma Ruth Vaja and Jacqueline Duran.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Santa Barbara-Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee continued its longstanding support of the Santa Barbara Physical Rehabilitation Clinic of Puerto Vallarta, which was founded in 1988 by Sister City Committee members dedicated to forming a physical rehabilitation, multidisciplinary team to improve the quality of life throughout the region for disabled children and low-income adults. The clinic is located in Puerto Vallarta's Zona Hotelera Norte. Early in the pandemic crisis, the committee donated a solar panel and air conditioning for the clinic.
The Rotary Club of Puerto Vallarta initiated the building phase of the clinic and requested help with furnishing it. The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara North submitted a grant request to Rotary International to provide much-needed medical equipment. The grant total was $40,000.
The Sister City organization also supports a community health clinic in Boca de Tomatlan.
Click here for more information about the committee or how to donate or become a member, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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