Families planning for Christmas service trip to Mexico

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
When they pack up their vehicles in December, a group of individuals will travel to Northern Mexico-to bring gifts and supplies, build a house and offer good will to a depressed colony of people in need of aide.

Six Hillsboro area families and one family from Garden City have joined to undertake a mission to shift the spirit of Christmas giving from those who have too much to those who have so little.

The group calls itself Christmas Rebuilders.

“We’re rebuilding what we do at Christmas-we’re doing it different,” said Lillian Bookless of Hillsboro. “And we’re also going down to build something.”

From Dec. 26 to Jan. 2, about 26 people will visit the depressed colony of Primero De Mayo to experience a different Christmas.

Inspired by her sister and brother-in-law, Rose and Larry Buschman of Garden City, Bookless and her family traveled to the colony last Christmas. After returning, they discovered that others wanted to join them.

In addition to the Lillian and Don Bookless family, the five other Hillsboro area families are headed by Donna and Ernie Luna, Aaron and Robin Blazek, Dave Goering, Dean and Beth Hein and Ben and Mary Steketee.

“Our family has decided that every year at Christmas, we spend money on gifts for each other, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Mary Steketee said.

“But, there comes a point that we have everything we need. So maybe we can take that money we were going to use, and let’s spend it on going down there and doing something worthwhile.”

The colony of Primero De Mayo, on the outskirts Reynosa, was founded in 2003 across the border from southeastern Texas.

“They’re shuffling people as they come up toward the border,” Bookless said.

“The Mexican officials don’t know what to do with all these people who are homeless, probably jobless, and trying to find a better life-but it’s not working. So around the city, they’ve got these little satellite colonies where they’re putting people.”

Last Christmas, the Bookless family took donated supplies to the colony and helped build a cement-block storage room.

“It was meant to be a storage room for the missionary,” Bookless said. “But since Christmas, they’ve built a whole church around that. A group of masons came from Indiana for two weeks.”

Describing the difficult living conditions in the colony, Bookless said families are given small lots of dirt and rocks and must dig a hole for a primitive outhouse.

“Some of the homes are just blankets and pieces of wood, just whatever they can get their hands on,” Bookless said.

“It was so interesting to see them living like this and yet, they seemed to be happy. As I’d walk down the the little streets, people were sitting around, talking and laughing, and the children were playing.”

Building upon the mission last year, the men in the group plan to erect a home for one of the colony families. The supplies to do so cost about $1,000. When the money is collected, it will be sent in advance.

“It will take them about three to four days to build the house,” Bookless said.

The group is also raising money to buy health and beauty aids, such as Band-Aids, shampoo, combs, bar soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes; cast-aluminum cooking pots with double handles; and blankets.

Hoping area communities will rally behind their mission, they are asking for the following donations in good condition:

n Toys and stuffed animals as children’s Christmas gifts, artificial flowers and simple vases.

n Cookie and candy tins, plastic jars with lids, baby-food jars and mugs.

n Rubbermaid storage containers.

n Kitchen utensils, such as large stirring spoons, cutting knives and plastic mixing bowls.

n TV tray tables.

n Baby baths.

n Blankets in medium to dark colors, washable and single-bed size.

n Men’s belts, baseball caps.

n Clothes of all sizes, especially washable maternity clothes.

While down in the colony recently, Rose Buschman and a group of volunteers from Garden City discovered that the women in the colony were asking if they could have the cardboard boxes.

“One woman put her baby in that,” Bookless said. “As they looked around, the group realized the women had no where to put their babies. So we’re making baby beds.”

To make the baby beds, organizers need plastic storage containers about 21/2 feet long by 8 inches deep. Future Foam of Newton donated enough foam to make mattresses for about 100 beds.

“We have a little mattress made from 1-inch foam,” Bookless said. “We need ladies who can sew covers for these, and we need material donated.”

The tin cans collected will each contain a 2-pound bag of beans and a bag of rice.

“So far, we have 170 of those, and we plan to take more,” Bookless said about the tin cans. “The Et Cetera Shop in Hillsboro will give us anything we want for free if we’re taking it to Mexico.”

In addition to putting out donations jugs around town, the group is planning fund-raisers, such as a Flamingo Flocking and a combination car wash and breakfast.

Tickets for the car wash are available in advance. The event will be held from 8 a.m. to noon, Aug. 21, at Main Street Ministries in Hillsboro.

Organizers will sell food items, such as breakfast burritos, cinnamon rolls and juice.

“The other fund-raiser is kind of a quirky thing,” Steketee said.

For periods of 24 hours, a flock of plastic pink flamingos will be stuck in lawns around the community. Information about the fund-raiser and envelopes will be attached so donations can be mailed in. Participants can also donate $10 and the name of someone else recommended to receive the flock of flamingos.

“It’s not meant to make anybody feel obligated,” Steketee said. “It’s supposed to be lighthearted and fun. There’s also an option to buy insurance for the prevention of large pink birds. Isn’t that fun?”

Monetary donations will also help with travel, gas and housing while the group is in Mexico.

“There’s a house down there with four bedrooms and 10 queen-size beds we’ll all stay in,” Steketee said. “It’s specifically designed for mission work. It’s about $30 a night for a family, depending on how many are in the family.”

As the donations continue to come in during the next few months, the group is asking someone in the community to come forward with a storage facility.

“We need a large place-to collect, store, sort, box and label the items-even if it’s an empty store front,” Bookless said.

The group has chosen the phrase “Redo what we do at Christmastime” as their motto.

“It’s giving a whole new purpose to our Christmas,” Bookless said.

For more information or to make a donation, call Bookless any time at 947-3393, or call Steketee at 947-5516 during the day.

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