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Las Vecinas recognized in USA Weekend

April 18, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Las Vecinas auxiliary of the Valley Orthopedic Clinic is the best "neighbor" a clinic could want.

Las Vecinas, which means "neighbor" in English, will be mentioned in USA Weekend magazine's "Make A Difference Day," edition later this month for their efforts to "make a difference" in the lives of the many patients who pass through the clinic's doors and for exemplary fund-raising efforts, from which they donate nearly $1,400 each month to the clinic.

Make a Difference Day was started by USA Weekend 10 years ago and is the fourth Saturday in October.

Each year community organizations and volunteer groups such as Las Vecinas enter a contest to win awards from the magazine.

More than 2.2 million people reported their participation in service projects throughout the nation.

This year Las Vecinas won a $1,000 planning grant award, given by the Wal-Mart corporation.

Valley Orthopedic Clinic was started by Dr. and Mrs. Nichols in 1961 and has been running "legally for 30 years, but about 40 years total," said Ana Maria DeAnda, an administrative officer at the clinic.

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DeAnda said the clinic treats about 100 patients per weekend.

Most of the clinic's patients are from Mexico and crippled and disfigured from birth defects and often polio-related problems.

DeAnda said the clinic is free and is open to anyone from the United States and Mexico.

Doctors from the Children's Orthopedic Hospital in Los Angeles donate their time and talents to keep the clinic running.

Children who need surgery are often flown to the hospital in Los Angeles, free of charge, for their treatment.

A vision clinic is conducted the third Saturday of each month, during which patients are treated for vision problems and occasionally a doctor from Mexicali will come to fit patients for various walking braces.

Funded by private donations, the clinic does not receive any government subsidies for the many supplies and medicines needed.

That's where the Las Vecinas auxiliary stepped in.

Started in 1965, Las Vecinas' purpose is to raise funds for the Valley Orthopedic Clinic.

"We have a Christmas bazaar, a bake sale and a sidewalk sale and a thrift shop," said Las Vecinas member Bertha Myers.

Myers, who has been a Las Vecinas member for 10 years, since retiring from teaching, said the auxiliary is unique for several reasons, listing the ages of the members as the most outstanding.

"The mean age of our members is 76 years," Myers said.

She added members of Las Vecinas are from "both sides of the border. Some don't speak Spanish, some don't speak English."

The sidewalk sale, hosted by Las Vecinas, has evolved from a once a year to a monthly event.

Grocery bags, stuffed as full as one can make them, are sold for $1 each.

The thrift store is open every Tuesday and on clinic days.

Myers said the thrift store sells donated items, adding, "we take anything."

"Children's clothing is needed the most and men's clothing too," said Myers.

Always on the hunt for more volunteers, Myers said Las Vecinas needs people "who will work in the thrift shop, and who will help translate for doctors who don't speak Spanish."

She added, "It would be a wonderful way for kids who want to become doctors to learn about it."

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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