Friday, January 13, 2017

Islanders coming together to create a special day

Day of the Kings' Isla Mujeres
Kings Day, January 6th in all of Mexico is a very special day for children. It’s a very important event for Catholics in Mexico, celebrating when the three wise men purportedly arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for baby Jesus.  And it’s the day when local children traditionally receive their holiday celebration gifts.

Restaurant owner, Ruben Chavez again hosted a party for the island kids at his tiny little restaurant on Guerrero Avenue, located across from the post office. 

Diego Gonzalez - keeping things organized
For months Mexican and foreigners have been gathering gifts, organizing food, and assembling donations. John Pasnau, as always, was knee deep in the event.  His first mate, Diego Gonzalez and Diego’s family members pitched in to help out both with the pre-organization and all during the event on Friday January 6th.

A gift-elf, keeping the stacks sorted.
In 2016 there were over 800 toys collected and about 1200 children attended the event.  This year, 2017 the group gathered in 1473 toys, but again, there were more children than toys. John Pasnau says the event will be registered as a non-profit organization later this year. He is hoping that will help with his fundraising for January 2018. John’s family members also pitched in carting over three hundred toys to Mexico from American friends.  Valerie Pasnau had at various times suitcases filled with footballs, (we call them soccer balls), Hot Wheels, crayons and more.
Volunteers inside the restaurante
Gail Marie Stewart and the food crew constructed thousands of sandwiches starting at eight in the evening the night before, working for three hours preparing and wrapping and storing in the refrigerators. The gift elves spent hours sorting toys into girl-type toys or boy-type toys then sorted the piles again by age category.

Deanne delivering the hampers of food and supplies
The hamper crew, organized by Déanne Gray, put together boxes of food and household supplies, with Ruben identifying the people who were most in need of assistance. Déanne got the idea of an Advent Hamper from her grandchildren, and asked interested folks to place one item each day into a basket or similar container for twenty-four days. The night before the event, all of the food hampers were carted over to the IxChel Condo Hotel to be stored until the next morning. 

Ruben and hamper receiver
Ruben’s Restaurante was overflowing with gifts sorted and ready for the big day. There wasn’t a single space for a customer to enjoy his great food on Thursday and most of Friday. Even with three cracked ribs Ruben was in the thick of the event – in pain and stressed about the reality of not having enough presents – he was in motion all the time. This is not the only kind deed that Ruben is responsible for. He also donates 10% of his restaurant sales to the Casa Hogar orphanage located in the Rancho Viejo colonia, on the mainland portion of the Municipality of Isla Mujeres.

Waiting in line for hours!
And then there the big day arrived. The lineups started hours before the scheduled start time. Volunteers controlled the crowds, the traffic, and the flow of children by age to the two double-windows where elves handed out the gifts: girls’ line on one side and the boys’ line on the other side. The sandwiches and drinks were passed out through the side window in the garden.
Santa in sandals
Last year Santa sat in the hot tropical sun for hours, personally handing each child a gift. With the increase in numbers that is just not feasible anymore. Santa would have expired from heat exhaustion.  I know from personal experience that Mickey and Minnie, who were on-site for only ninety minutes, were suffering from the heat inside their elaborate costumes.

More islanders at Kings' Day on Isla Mujeres
At the end of the day there were more children than gifts, but not willing to let any child be disappointed part-time islander, Jackie Conlon generously asked John Pasnau to negotiate with the ice-cream vendor for his entire stock.

“The ice-cream cone story was fun.” John Pasnau explained, “Jackie has zero Spanish. I have 20% on a good day. The ice-cream man had about 2% English. With work we found out it was more about how many cones he had, which was doscientos, two hundred. Then I asked how much for all of them.”

Shocked, the vendor replied. “What?”

John patiently repeated, “All of them.”

The vendor replied, “15 pesos.”

John said, “Ok, 15 pesos times 200 is 3000 pesos, si?”

“Si,” the vendor happily agreed.

“Discount for buying all 200?” Asked John.

“Si. 15 pesos each.” The vendor nodded his head in agreement.

John: “So there we were. The proud buyers of 200 cones at retail. Santa has never done so poorly on a bulk buy.”  (Sorry Jackie, I don't have a photo of you and the ice-cream guy.)
Ice Cream man at Day of the Kings
Over the next few days the Facebook chatter and the private messages back and forth between the participants was amazing. Everyone was pleased, happy, and inspired to do it all again. The payoff is the big smiles.

Great work everyone and a big thank-you to you, Ruben Chavez. The man with the huge heart.

Lawrie Lock, Lynda Lock, Ruben Chavez, John Pasnau

Lawrie & Lynda

Super Organizer - Gail Stewart and Rita Lawson

Ruben’s helpers are listed below: I apologize if I missed anyone.  Contact me on FaceBook and I will gladly amend the list.

John Pasnau, Valerie Pasnau, Annelise Pasnau, Gail-Marie Stewart, Jackie Conlon, Diego Gonzalez Torres, Gelmy Garrido Escalante, Fernanda Gonzalez Noh, Emily Gonzalez Garrido, Marrion Nielson, Steve Ferree, Terri Ferrero Tywan, Julie Goth, Rob Goth, Déanne Gray, Brent Curley, Carol Gatlin, Kathy Nicholson, Karly Bandala, Patricia Cauich, Therese McComas Durhman, Christina Rich, Maria Delagdo, Aaron Greene, Ruth Lacey, Wanda Wagner, Jennifer Kelly, Rita Lawson, Annie Tatum Musil, and Alexa Aviles De a O.

Plus the hardworking restaurant staff: Jessica, Sami, and Ricky.

Mickey and Minnie would also like family members Richard and Linda Grierson for once again driving us to and from the event, and keeping a watchful eye on us while encumbered by limited visibility and movement. It’s always a challenge to move around with little fans clinging to our legs and hands. 

Julie Goth and Deanne Gray

Helen Nixon Tenke, Marrien Nielson, Ruben ...

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