In October 2014, a group of Americans living just south of Rosarito discovered that the local ambulance service in Primo Tapia had been cut back to part-time by Cruz Roja Mexicana, the Rosarito Chapter of the official Red Cross in Mexico. This cut-back was due to a major shortage of funds.
Already a member of Cruz Roja Voluntarios Americanos de Rosarito, Lana Jordan emailed the members of that volunteer board expressing an interest in creating a Primo Tapia chapter of Cruz Roja that would supplement the budget so that the 12 hours of service each day that had been defunded could be re-established. Rosie Pena immediately responded and they met the next week to form Cruz Roja Voluntarios Americanos de Primo Tapia.
The first Cruz Roja Primo Tapia General Membership meeting was planned for November 9, 2014, at Splash. A small but mighty group of Americans who now called Baja home stepped up to get the organization going. Thank you to our founding members, Lana Jordan, President, Drew Juvinall, Kathy Schy Treasurer, Pam Saltzman Membership Chair, Val Valle, Thrift Store Director.
This initial meeting was an incredible success with more than 100 folks in attendance. We had more than 60 people become members of Cruz Roja Primo Tapia that day and more joined as their memberships to Cruz Roja Voluntarios de Rosarito expired. There continues to be a close relationship between Cruz Roja Rosarito and Cruz Roja Primo Tapia. However, it does make sense for people to maintain their membership in the area in which they reside.
At the first General Meeting, Jackie Alameda presented Cruz Roja Primo Tapia with a $250 donation from Baja Blues Festival and took a box around the room collecting donations. More than $1,000 was raised on the spot. In addition to the individual $20 memberships, we added $50, $100, $500 (and a $1,000 lifetime) memberships. It was amazing how many contributed above the minimum to help us get started. Everyone knew we needed an ambulance here the other 12 hours each day. With that new money generated to help set up the thrift store, Cruz Roja Primo Tapia was rolling!
Lana Jordan and Rosie Pena met with Maricela Maciel Sanchez, Administrator, and Raul Zapata, President of Cruz Roja Mexicana, who explained that the ambulance cost $5,000/mo. and the minimum to have the ambulance here the other 12 hours was $2,500 USD. Later, Cruz Roja Mexicana informed us that the $2,500 did not cover all the costs for the ambulance in Primo Tapia so the Board of Directors agreed to pay $3,000 USD per month to Cruz Roja Mexicana. Cruz Roja Mexicana continues to pay for their share of the expenses for the ambulance and Cruz Roja Primo Tapia pays the other half plus an extra $500. The greater Primo Tapia area has benefited because now Cruz Roja Mexicana maintains two ambulances in Prima Tapia (of course, except if they are on an emergency call or in the morning when the ambulances are being sanitized).
The volunteers continued to look for a good location for the store and collect more saleable goods. Val Valle, as Director of the Thrift Store, put together an amazing group of volunteers. Donations came in from all over. A space for a thrift store was located on the free road in mid-town Primo Tapia. We painted it, laid new flooring, did some remodeling and opened our doors in January, 2015. Through the largesse of one of our members, Linda Cone, we obtained storage for our overflow of donated items.
Many generous people contributed and the store was stocked in no time. In fact, it was bursting at the seams. Quite soon, we realized that the relatively small space we had (about 20’ by 20’) was not going to be adequate. The store was able rent the space immediately adjacent to the Thrift Store. An opening was installed between the two spaces and the store’s space was doubled!
The store nets enough each month to pay for our part of the ambulance service, the rent on our thrift store, miscellaneous store expenses and improvements.
The income from memberships and special events provides invaluable support to Cruz Roja Mexicana, our official Red Cross.
In October, 2015, the Board of Directors put on the first Oktoberfest Event. This first year, the Board and other amazing volunteers organized the event in just 6 weeks. It was a great success. Everyone who came had fun and the event raised over $7,000! It was a unanimous feeling that the event should become annual. And, indeed, Oktoberfest has now been held in 2016 and 2017 with even more funds raised for Cruz Roja Mexicana. We look forward to October 2018!
St. Patrick’s Day seemed like another chance for Cruz Roja Primo Tapia to bring together members, volunteers, and people from the Community for a good cause. The first St. Patrick’s Day Event was held at El Pescador Restaurant on March 17, 2016. Like Oktoberfest, this has now become a successful and fun annual event.
Two very generous volunteers, Jim and Anne Hausmann, have added an on-going event that provides important support to Cruz Roja Primo Tapia. Many people look forward every two weeks to going to BINGO. Hosted by Jim and Anne, BINGO is held at El Pescador on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 1:00. Bring your friends and see how much fun it is, particularly with Jim and Anne as our hosts. They keep us laughing while we win!
Cruz Roja Mexicana’s mission is to provide ambulance and other services to all of Mexico. Cruz Roja Voluntarios Americanos de Primo Tapia works to raise funds specifically to support the mission of Cruz Roja Mexicana and to extend its services in order to maintain an ambulance in Primo Tapia 24/7.
Thanks to all the volunteers and members of Cruz Roja Primo Tapia, the incredible hard work of starting an organization in a foreign country from scratch has been an enormous success, and the work goes on. This is a success story without an ending as more and more people come to Baja and see how wonderful life is in this beautiful area we now call home and, once settled, we see more and more people step up to offer their support and their hands to continue the work.