Still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Odile a month earlier, in mid-October the community of Cabo San Lucas and surrounding areas although still suffering, were energized by the unprecedented international, national, regional and local support offered.
DURING THE AWARDS banquet on the final night of the event, McDonell announced that $50,000 (100 percent without any administration fees) had been collected to build a minimum of 15 homes for specifically selected families.
Numerous humanitarian organizations, NPO's, NGO's and individuals had gathered the desperately needed food, water treatment equipment, clothes, shoes, shampoo, hygiene products, (feminine products), bedding (limited), and baby needs: Diapers, powdered milk, baby wipes, baby food as well as the many other items which included cleaning supplies (brooms, gloves, cleaning towels and rags, bleach and soaps..), vitamins, electrolytes, mosquito repellent, Ensure (for elderly or disabled), diapers for adults and those who are bedridden, dog and cat food, etc.
However, the key to the success of this monumental task was locating "boots on the ground" groups that could be depended on to distribute these collected items to those in need. Many different groups and organizations were reviewed and recruited.
There were many who volunteered to help. One of the first to step up after the devastating tragedy was Rebecca (Becca) Ehrenberg and her family. Only 25, Becca already had a rich background beginning with a degree in International Development and Sustainability (Honors: Cum Laude) from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Plus she had experience as a volunteer in South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Ghana, all of which made her an ideal candidate for the task ahead.
Rebecca’s family owns Pisces Group Cabo, which is comprised of Pisces Sportfishing, Pisces Real Estate and Captain Tony’s Restaurant. On the afternoon following the hurricane, the Ehrenbergs recognized the urgent need to get help to all who had been affected so severely by Odile’s passing. Eight of their employees had been left without a home. Their employees, friends and family formed groups to help with cleaning homes and debris, and meals were served to those who needed them at Captain Tony’s Restaurant.
Zuki Page and Barbara Alvarez made up Rebecca’s 's WON Team.
They realized that clothing was desperately needed. Even though some had clothes, they had gotten completely soaked and dirty, as many had no homes or their homes were without roofs, and because many were without water and power, they had no way to wash.
Thus began a huge push for clothing of all kinds! Captain Tony’s became a collection center and Rebecca had surrounded herself with six key people, consistently and whole-heartedly giving all that they could to meeting the needs of the people who came for help.
Word spread quickly and since the Ehrenberg’s had a generator, they were able to charge electronic devices as well. They began documenting the work and Pisces Sportfishing and the family’s personal Facebook pages shared all the information of what was happening in the area and how best to help.
The effort grew quickly. The Distribution Center was moved from Captain Tony's to Vida Nueva Church (non-denominational) in Colonia Cactus. The pastor, Prospero Alejandro Tapia, stepped in and gave her full use of the church facility. With her help, Becca and her team continued their work of dispensing aid.
Trucks began arriving from the United States. Glenn Ehrenberg, Rebecca’s brother who is studying in San Diego coordinated Cabo expats and friends, organizing donations and donation drop-off centers with the help of two nonprofits, Earth Angels and Fundacion Sarahuaro. Glenn and his friends, the Aramburos, set up a website, www.helpcabo.org with all the latest information on Cabo happenings and how to donate.
The second truck that arrived was filled with much-needed items donated entirely by Stars and Stripes Tournament, the largest charity sportfishing tournament of its kind in the world held annually in Baja, and coordinated by Glenn and Tournament Director, Dick Gebhart.
Waves for Water, an international organization provided much-needed personal water filtration systems. Catherine Murphy, Hurricane Odile’s Project Manager for Waves for Water, praised Becca and her team for their dedication in assisting in the delivery of clean water systems to those in need.
Plus there was a large donation of items such as blankets, towels and food from El Dorado Foundation and other donations received by locals (in-kind) and from other parts of Mexico (mostly medical).
REBECCA INVITED McDonell to tour Colonia Cactus to see the effects of Odile as well as what had been done and what was planned for the future of the residents.
With so many donations, they were able to set up a Community Kitchen in Colonia Cactus to assist the many community kitchens already in place, including the kitchens of Feeding Los Cabos Kids.
Rebecca and her team began moving on to Phase II of their project: Replacing destroyed homes with ones built out of block and cement -- homes that would last, be sustainable, and survive another hurricane.
She explained, “Criteria for those we will help rebuild: 60 percent of the homes must have been destroyed or affected by the hurricane, captains and mates homes. Must have papers to the land (no squatters), must be willing to participate in the rebuild. We want to make sure that the people we are helping also have some involvement so that they appreciate the work done and so that they value it. We want the fishing community to come together and help each other … we have seen this happen in our fleet already with captains and mates lending a hand and helping rebuild and clean each other's homes. In the case of total rebuilds, we will construct a 4 by 6 m block and cement room with kitchen or bathroom and anticipate a cost of approximately $5,000 per unit. Currently we have 18 families slated for rebuilds.”
Rebecca and her team were asked to assist with the recent 15th annual Western Outdoor News/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot by Pat McDonell who was invited to tour Colonia Cactus to see the effects of Odile as well as what had been done and what was planned for the future of the residents. He joined in on the loading of shoes and shampoo and distributed them with other staffers, including assistant director Mike Packard and his family that night. They all sprayed themselves with repellant as the threate of Dengue feveral carries by mosquitos is still very real.
“It was an incredible experience. Very emotional, and the parents and children of all ages, 100 of them who were waiting for the shoes, were so polite, so grateful. The need is beyond comprehension for those of us in the United States.”
Impressed by the recovery efforts he had witnessed, McDonell decided that all of the tournament’s usual charity efforts this year would be dedicated to the construction of the 15 or more new homes and some elements of charity like the silent auction would be added as well.
He praised Rebecca and her team later at the awards dinner on Saturday.
"We lost two key staffers this year and Rebecca and her friends who have been part of the Odile relief efforts were recommended as replacements. I was blessed with having them be part of the event. They were everywhere! They just meshed beautifully with the rest of the crew who also stepped up their game this year to meet the challenges."
During the Awards banquet on the final night of the event, McDonell announced that $50,000 (100 percent without any administration fees) had been collected to build 15 or more homes for specifically selected families. In addition to the efforts on behalf of charity by the tournament, there were spontaneous acts of kindness by individuals, teams and of course our great sponsors.
While Odile will be remembered for the destruction and devastation left in its path, the collective community response bolstered by universal worldwide support seems to have left Los Cabos with a stronger community spirit then it has ever enjoyed in the past. Hopefully over time #Cabo Strong and #Unstoppable will remain an anthem for continued improvement and the community spirit won’t be abandoned or squandered.
There is still a need. More work needs to be done. If you would like to contribute to the rebuilding project, either visit https://www.facebook.com/reconstructcabo/timeline or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass your message along to Rebecca and her team.