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San Miguel’s Chili & Charros funds go far!

By Gregory R. Gunter

“We didn’t even have a car,” explained nonprofit entrepreneur Ezequiel Mojica, adding, “I had to hitch a ride on the back bumper of the Coca-Cola truck to reach our clients in the campo.”

San Miguel native Ezequiel—the young founder of micro-lender nonprofit Apoyo a  Gente Emprendedora—had returned from a Dallas stint in 2005, having worked there at McDonalds and as a janitor. Ezequiel felt he’d gained special insight into the lack of San Miguel’s income-producing opportunities and, empowered with his tiny savings from sweeping floors, began a lending program for small vendors in the campo. His loans average 2,000 pesos (about US$160) and enable women in the campo to become—and remain—independent.

I found Ezequiel’s youthful enthusiasm—he’s the age of your youngest grandson—contagious. And so did the 1976-founded San Miguel Community Foundation (SMCF), which on March 1 provided Ezequiel’s nonprofit foundation with a 56,430 peso grant, about US$4,500.

The best news? Five other recipients received identical grants, manna from heaven as some would describe it.

‘Chili,’ not manna, might be a more apt description. You see, the nearly 340,000 pesos in grants were the net proceeds from the 2012 Chili & Charros event hosted this January. Event co-coordinators Lisa Tyson-Sandefer and Laurie Sandefer—aided by Penzi Boda’s Guadalupe Alvarez—chose to designate this year’s net proceeds to SMCF who, in turn, fielded grant requests and chose six Mexican nonprofits to receive the distribution.

“Laurie and I were thrilled with the community support,” noted Chili & Charros co-coordinator Tyson-Sandefer. “We saw over 2,700 attendees—boosted by 17 chili teams—turn out to support this event. It proved to be San Miguel’s largest one-day charitable event ever!”

Donna Foudray, current President of the SMCF Board of Directors, noted that the March grant distribution was a special addition to the foundation’s twice-annual grant cycle which, last year, included 1,000,000 pesos in grants. “And since this was a special distribution outside our regulated guidelines,” Foudray said, “we were able to approve new, worthy agencies outside the San Miguel boundaries.”

Cadena Ayuda—based in Querétaro—proved a first-time SMCF recipient. Founder David Peterson provides room and board, resources and survival advice to rural college students throughout the state of Guanajuato. Additional inaugural recipient PEASMA, a project coordinated by the Foundation to Support Children in Guanajuato, educates a new generation by promoting awareness, love, and respect for the environment, in alliance with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Casita Linda’s president, Saul Whynman, noted that funds received will help complete the organization’s 47th home in San Miguel for an extended three-generation family of six. The grandmother—a diabetic amputee confined to a wheelchair—was grateful to move out of the family’s old abode whose unstable roof was supported on oil drums. Marie Abercrombie, representing the SPA, joined in the enthusiasm, thankful for the urgently needed funds.

Mujeres en Cambio provided a poignant example of how their grant will fund scholarships like the one Maria Florina—Flor, as everyone calls her—received. A Mujeres en Cambio student since 2003 when she was in high school, Flor recently graduated from a five-year architecture program from the University of León, where she was the only woman to graduate among her original class of 29 students, which had dropped to only five by graduation. Felicidades, Flor!

And felicidades to everyone who attended the Chili & Charros event. Ain’t no beans about it—those chili funds went far!

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