Hugging Our Vallarta Close…Volunteers Get Busy and Break Records!

Blog posting by Tracy Parks who is a freelance writer living part time in Puerto Vallarta.

I left Puerto Vallarta on April 14, 2009 for a three month return to the states. Beaches had been packed full of Semana Santa vacationers and a fairly good high season was winding down. Most everyone was happy that the recession in the states hadn’t taken too big of a bite out of the economy in Vallarta. There were problems at the border with narcotics violence that was having some effect on perceptions of other parts of Mexico, but for the most part, people were still visiting and enjoying Puerto Vallarta with gusto.

Then, it hit: swine flu (or the fear of it). Literally the day after I left the news broke, it seemed. Soon, most of the tourist trade was ordered shut down as safety precautions were taken. Schools were closed. Cruise ships stopped coming. Puerto Vallarta was very quiet.

Much has returned to normal in PV but families and business owners are still feeling the effects of that period. Many are not back to work. Tourism is still suffering. Things are looking better each day but there is still a huge need for the outpouring of donations and volunteerism that I witnessed and photographed on Tuesday, July 28 at the packaging party for the food drive now underway at PVRPV’s offices. Sixty-five wonderful friends of Vallarta stepped inside PVRPV’s offices and what we shared is hard to describe but it felt much like a sweat-lodge spiritual bonding. When we stepped out of the sweat lodge less than an hour later, we knew we had taken part in something very important and necessary. The feeling was awesome! We had completed 865 bags in forty minutes! The amount of work that had gone into getting us to that moment was mind boggling and we all hugged ourselves a bit for the accomplishment. The spirits are high in this town and friends are coming from near and far to take part in making sure everyone gets through it. It will really make you fall in love with this place if you hadn’t already. It sure made me aware of how many great people we have in this town.

Volunteers file into PVRPV’s offices on Tuesday, ignoring the humidity, to help out the Puerto Vallarta food drive that benefits DIF’s Child Protective Services Programs.

Ready to assemble! Bags (each with 1 kg of rice, 1 kg of beans, 1 kg of lentils, 1 kg of soup pasta and 12 bullion cubes) fill nearly every corner of PVRPV’s offices, waiting for the assembly line to begin.

Marianne, of Apaches on Olas Altas, talks about why she is helping in the food drive with Video Diva Productions reporter, Laura Gelezunas. Laura also does many stories for Banderas News who has been a huge supporter of this drive.

Special guest, Shrek, kept us smiling in the heat! Thanks to Juan Carlos from PVRPV!

Shrek supervises and jokes with volunteers.

Aldo and Gina, who were on vacation from Aguascalientes, helped the adults at the beginning of the assembly line.

Puerto Vallarta resident Maureen Power and her husband Francisco also attended.

Everyone’s best friend, Pam Thompson from Health Care Resources, tosses a bag of pasta that went astray to volunteers at the the end of the line.

Rick Hepting, from Vallarta Scene, tossed completed bags to the pile without ever losing a beat. He is one of the driving forces behind the success of this and other efforts to provide for those in need here in Vallarta. Last week, he drove to Toronto with his wife Sarah to attend another fundraiser for the Children of the Dump in Vallarta, hosted by the owners of Casa Isabel in Puerto Vallarta and Madison’s Toronto.

AMario Tobar volunteer from Casa Cupula gets busy.

The mountain of bags grows to the ceiling (we even had a small avalanche at one point and had to move to a new pile). Shown here in the background are Sergio and Fidel employees of Actinver of Puerto Vallarta, who have volunteered for the last couple of weeks.

Laura from Actinver and Lee Rose resident of Puerto Vallarta at the bottom of the stairs keep the bags moving down to the giant pile.

Don Pickens, of Casa Cupula, tallies each bag as it is completed. Over 800 bags were prepared on Tuesday night, July 28 at PVRPV’s offices in old town Puerto Vallarta.

John McCloud, new Vallarta resident and long time visitor, has been helping with the food packaging for many weeks. He’s also an avid Bingo supporter for the Bite Me Restaurant’s ‘Bingo for Beans and Babies’ Fund Raiser on Thursday nights on Los Muertos Beach.

James, one of PVRPV’s accounting clerks, assists volunteers in tying the bags, one of the many jobs on the food drive assembly line.

A surprise delivery of homemade cookies from Nina from La Bodega de Nina was a hit as volunteers left the building. Thanks for the treat…delicious!

Volunteers escape to the street, where the temperature had dropped quite a bit, thanks to a little rainshower that fell as we packaged.

Helping with the fun was much of the staff from Puerto Vallarta’s luxurious Casa Cupula Bed and Breakfast. Don Pickens (Owner), Fernando Vazquez, Mario Tobar and Oscar Benitez.

Bags ready to go and barely room for him to work, Tim’s office is full of bags ready to be delivered thanks to the kindess of 65 volunteers who showed up to help! 865 bags were completed in 40 minutes!

Ready for his much needed vacation next week, Tim Longpre, owner of PVRPV, reflects on the day after most everyone is gone. (Good job Tim and crew!)