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Amarillas named Las Vecinas ‘woman of the year'

March 29, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — For her generous spirit and love of children, Rogelia Amarillas has been honored as the "woman of the year" by Calexico's Las Vecinas Auxiliary.

Many Calexicans may know of Amarillas as a longtime music teacher here. A member of the Music Teachers Association of California since 1950, she has been giving piano lessons to generations of Calexico children since 1954. In the decades since she moved here from Tuscon with her husband in 1949, Amarillas has taught thousands of local residents to play piano.

Many of her students may not have known of her volunteering efforts with Las Vecinas.

Club vice president Bertha Myers explained why.

She said Amarillas has been a big help for many years behind the scenes, collecting clothing for the thrift shop that Las Vecinas operates at the downtown Valley Orthopedic Clinic. She has donated crafts, baked goods and plants for clinic bazaars and participated in a host of other community activities.


Amarillas said Thursday that she just loves kids and to help those less fortunate.

Once a month from October to April, the thrift shop sponsors a day when Mexicali residents or Calexicans can pay 50 cents for a grocery bag full of clothes. Amarillas helps gather the clothes for those sidewalk sales.

Her face lighting up, she described how neat it is to watch those families get so much they need.

"They get a lot into those bags! … and we are happy to help the people because they don't have anything," she said.

In addition to the sidewalk sale days, Las Vecinas, along with the Valley Orthopedic Clinic, sponsors trips to Los Angeles and San Diego for children who are born handicapped.

During the past few years the non-profit clinic has helped more than 2,000 children get operations. Doctors donate their time and fly in to diagnose the children, then the clinic sends families to seven different hospitals in Los Angeles and San Diego for treatment.

Looking at a brochure showing some of the children the clinic has helped, Amarillas teared up and looked away.

"I cry when I see these kids," she said.

Myers said, "Most of the Mexicali residents don't have papers to cross, so they wait at the downtown Port of Entry until our people go for them. We also have to take them back to the port after returning from the clinic."

At the "estancia" where they wait to come across for their appointments, Las Vecinas provides meals and beds if the families have to spend the night.

Myers said, "People come from all over Mexico. People from Tijuana come here because they don't have a place like this over there."

While club members such as Amarillas and others have donated money to the cause, Myers said more is needed. Various members of the club have passed away in the past years.

"We need more people to help us. We need volunteers in the thrift shop and we need people to translate. Our meetings are the third Friday of the month at Calexico's Carrows," Myers said.

For more information contact Myers at 357-1665.

Amarillas will be honored at the Center for Family Solutions' annual meeting dinner at Holtville's Barbara Worth Golf Resort on April 19.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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