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International Shoebox Aid to Nogales, Sonora

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Every year for the last 12 years, the Pantano Rotary Club, of District 5500,  has worked with other clubs - both locally and internationally - to take food and supplies to families in Nogales, Sonora.

The second weekend after Christmas, Mexican mothers and their children come from miles away to meet at the Nogales clubhouse on Sunday morning. Each mother collects a bag of groceries and a shoebox for each of their children.

Donations are collected throughout the year and packaged into shoeboxes that are taken to the border and stored in Nogales, Ariz. until they are passed out in Nogales, Sonora.

With the help of Rotary Clubs in Tucson, Canada and Mexico, 1,000 grocery bags and 900 shoeboxes were given to families this past January. 

This year, six American Rotarians and 15 Canadian Rotarians volunteered to travel to Nogales, Son. and join about 19 Mexican Rotarians to help coordinate the event.

The Canadian Rotarians travel to Tucson, Ariz., sometimes a week or two before the event, to meet with Pantano Rotary Club members. The Canadian Rotarians have contributed to the shoebox donations since it started 12 years ago.

The group arrived in Nogales on Thursday night, January 7.  

Friday morning, the Rotarians headed out to the colonias to hand out a ticket to each child and mother to be redeemed later at the clubhouse for the food and children’s items.

“We put smiley faces on their hands and give them their ticket, so they can’t say they lost their ticket,” said Sue Aslin, a committee chair and participant since the beginning.

The mothers start lining up outside the clubhouse at 4 a.m. in anticipation of the groceries that will sustain their family for up to two weeks. They will walk for miles to get the groceries and clothes, "through hills, dirt and gutters," said Aslin.

The groceries are pre-ordered at the local grocery store, Sorano’s, by a Mexican Rotarian who coordinates with the store’s manager on what will go in the bags and how much each one will cost. 

The grocery bags included a can of vegetables, a bag of beans, a bag of rice, a can of tuna, a carton of evaporated milk, concentrated soup flavoring, cooking oil and a bag of animal crackers. 

The Rotarians also gave 600 blankets and some winter clothing to the families. They bought the winter clothing in stores in Nogales, Sonora. Their goal is to not only help the families, but to help stimulate the economy as well.

Aslin said originally they got a discount on the winter clothes they bought at Garcia’s and “when they saw we had American money they gave us a bigger discount.”

“We spent $1,000 at one store and $333 in another for winter clothing,” said Aslin.

But the stores limited the Rotarians' clothes shopping to only winter items, thinking that the sales for winter clothing had ended, explained Aslin.

At the end of the day, the Rotarians had spent $14,000 on groceries and winter clothing.

To see a list of all the Organizations involved, click here.

Written by Whitney Misenhimer You are reading International Shoebox Aid to Nogales, Sonora articles

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