In late March of 2020, a group of mostly expats in the Ojo de Agua colonia started a food pantry (despensa) to help neighbors who were suffering hardship due to reduced or complete loss of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ojo de Agua is a diverse community not far from the San Miguel de Allende historic district. There are older homes, some with three generations of family living together. There are also newer homes occupied by a global mix of expatriates and Mexican nationals.
Recognizing the need to quickly help their struggling neighbors, a Food Committee was formed, led by Mary Finley. They coordinated the logistics and distribution of the despensas. During the first two months, they purchased all of the dry goods, fresh produce, eggs, and other sundries (tooth brushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.) and distributed them to 15 families consisting of 68 individuals.
In late May of that year, they learned that they could get help from Feed the Hungry San Miguel. Beginning in June, they began picking up bags of food at the Feed the Hungry Center for bi-weekly distribution. They supplemented the food bags with fresh items such as limes, potatoes, onions, fruit, and eggs, as well as other sundries as needed. They eventually moved to a monthly program, and by the time they ended the distributions one year later in June 2021, they were feeding 19 families. The recipients were ever so grateful for the support they received.
In addition to providing food, the group initiated weekly English lessons for the kids and some of the parents on Saturday mornings. They did that work for about four months (September – December 2020), until the volunteers became concerned with the rising cases of COVID. They also hosted outdoor movie nights for the kids.
Currently, neighbors are working side-by-side to help clean up and repair the 400-year-old capilla (chapel), which is the heart of the community. The church plaza is where the actual “ojo de agua” is located.
Key volunteers with the food distribution project were Mary Finley, Randy Kremlacek, Joy Sablatura, Dena Cruz, Robert Stolebarger, Patricia Schacke, and Brad Rockwell.
“ Our work brought us much closer to our Mexican neighbors; we all know each other better (on a first name basis) and I feel that the extranjeros in the group feel much more integrated in the community. We are all blessed to have such wonderful neighbors,” said Mary.