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Hispanics giving back

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By Danielle Jackson

HIGH POINT, N.C. — In 2000, when she and some of her family members began pooling donations to send back to their native town of Mezquital in Mexico, Maria Rodriguez had no idea what impact their giving would have.

Six years later, Rodriguez is treasurer of Patronato Mezquital, a giving circle that regularly sends funds to those in need back home, and is nearing completion of a nursing home in Mezquital for the elderly.

The group, which includes Rodriguez’s husband, her two brothers and her sister-in-law, hosts various fundraising events in the High Point area of North Carolina to be able to send sufficient donations back to Mezquital, located in the state of Durango.

“We were already holding events like poker games and basketball tournaments to raise money,” she says. “It’s a way for us to give back to the community.”

Many of Rodriguez’s neighbors, also from Durango, participate in raffles and other events, and 100 to 150 people attend any given fundraiser, she says.

Members of Patronato Mezquital, a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro that has raised roughly $30,000, also donate $5 a month to support their respective communities.

“It’s not always a lot of money, but some money can always help,” Rodriguez says.

As the group’s giving circle evolved, members decided it needed more structure.

Thanks to Ivan Kohar Parra of the North Carolina Latino Coalition, Rodriguez says, the group was able to partner with the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to set up a bank account to handle donations and distribute funds to Mezquital.

Parra says that when he connected with the group, he realized the great potential it had to succeed.

“They’re helping to increase the number of people in immigrant communities who are donating their time, money and energy to improve not only the communities in their home countries but also those here,” he says.

A few years ago, a Mezquital resident learned of the group’s philanthropic efforts and donated a piece of land for Patronato Mezquital to use in whatever way it wanted.

Rodriguez and her family initially focused on the elderly.

“A lot of them live by themselves, and they are often left behind,” she says.

The group decided to use the land to build a nursing home, which began construction in 2004 with funds from a Mexican-based government project that provided $3 for every $1 sent to their homeland.

The nursing home, which has at least four interested parties on its waiting list, is expected to be completed by November.

To garner the remainder of the funds needed to build the nursing home, Rodriguez and eight friends took a road trip to Chicago in 2004 after learning that the governor of Durango would attend a conference.

After presenting their plan to him, he decided to lend them the remaining $20,000 they needed to complete the project.

The nursing home isn’t the sole mission of the group, which also wants to help those in need, including people who are living in the High Point area but are not from Durango.

“We’ve been able to provide financial assistance for families of the recently deceased in the states to transport them back to Mexico for funerals,” Rodriguez says.

The ideal goal, she says, is to increase awareness.

“People want to give, but they don’t really know how to give,” she says. “With us doing this, we have people who have joined us from Mexico, especially people who own businesses and even those with a little bit more to give. It’s not just people who are wealthy, but those who live and work day by day.”

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