The Friends of Cozumel Community Closet was held in early evening with golden sunlight beaming in through the front door of Vida Abundante Church. Racks of donated second hand colorful clothing, crates of neatly paired shoes, and tables loaded with homewares and games were displayed with affordable prices for the eager participants. Some items, like blankets, were handmade by volunteers from the Worldwide Christian Scuba Divers Organization to keep prices low and support the event. All families were screened beforehand, which permitted better access to staple items for some underserved members of the community. Participants were also provided with some credit coupons to purchase basic items.
The most amazing thing was just seeing how happy people were to be choosing items for themselves. The joy of expressing yourself by making a choice is fundamental to human happiness. The curiosity of examining an object and thinking, “Is this me?” or “Can I see this in my life?” This pure and innocent pleasure is wonderful to see, particularly when it is clearly appreciated because of its rarity.
Speaking of expressing yourself, one of the younger participants wore a mask accessorized with a silver chain that was very cool.
I noticed the men immediately picked up tools. One man had a framing hammer, and I asked if he planned to use it for work. He said that it would be useful for some small projects around the home, but his actual job was servicing tires. He then asked how to say his name, Jesus, in English. I told him, “it’s Jesus,” and was met with absolute incredulity until confirmed by other, more self-assured, volunteers. He laughed and examined some of the more curious items on the homewares table. There was a football shaped device for producing soothing white noise sounds which was interesting to explain. He shook his head and said, “so you’re telling me there’s not a clock in here at all?” I agreed that it seemed like an oversight.
The ladies tended to gravitate toward clothing. Unfortunately, the goods placed in the best light were mostly women’s undergarments, forcing your humble correspondent to avoid excessive prodding with camera and questions. Suffice to say, they seemed excited.
Finally, I spoke with Sami, a young Mexican volunteer adored by the Friends of Cozumel as much for her sunny disposition as her perfect English. She lamented the changes necessitated by the pandemic which have taken a toll on her educational experience. She is a star student at a good school, but it is impossible to really participate in a virtual classroom. She looks forward to traveling again to learn more languages.
I am also eager for the restrictions to subside, but, as I looked around the church at the orderly, socially distanced, and masked participants, I felt tremendously grateful to live in a community that can adapt and take care of itself, even in extraordinary circumstances.
Contributed by Eric Anderson, FOC Volunteer living in Cozumel
The initial Community Closet held February 1-2, 2021 described above by Eric was such a success that Friends of Cozumel has set up a temporary Community Closet for a couple of months in a rented space to continue distributing clothing, home goods and basic personal hygiene products. As of February 15, 104 families have participated benefitting 453 youth and adults. Total credit provided and used is $22,600 pesos to date (about $1,200 US). Families are allowed to purchase additional items beyond their credit and those earnings are used to benefit families in other ways like school scholarships, provide food pantry boxes, etc.