My Mexican Moments: Chapter 21

Time to Give Back

I began my working career as a writer. While I had fun typing Spiderman scripts for the boys at the Canadian Broadcast Company, it was time I hauled my IBM Selectric around to something more creative than timing Spidey scripts in a sound studio. Tobey Maguire in a movie? Ha! A laptop with the same keyboard as my Selectric? Ha! Over time I eventually married my love of travel with writing. I wrote travel brochures for SkyLark Holidays, a large tour operator out of Toronto. In those days we did sight inspections – checked out the hotels in the Caribbean, everywhere SkyLark flew to, I went, I wrote and lied, just a little. Google? TripAdvisor? Virtual tours? Ha! Flying first class and smoking a pack of Rothmans the entire way. Ah, those were the days.

But today I don’t smoke, and I have several digital devices that are smaller than the size of my old Zippo lighter. For three months I freelanced for the English tourist paper, Pacific Pearl. Jackie Peterson has been writing their arts and entertainment column for 18 years; I don’t write about catina crawls, fishing or sports, so there was no real fit at the Pearl for me. Jackie has it well covered and is highly respected, not to mention territorial. Janet Blaser’s publication M! is nicely designed and she agreed to try me on a few profiles and possibly some sound bites on arts and entertainment. Freelancing for M! is fun, but it didn’t exactly fulfill my desire to volunteer, to give back.

Soren and I wanted to do something together, and following our belief of “humans first” we chose Hospice Mazatlan. We aren’t committee people, (been there, done that, no patience) we thought our writing, internet (that would be Soren) and advertising skills may be of some use to the Hospice volunteers. We meet Cheryl Gray, a dedicated volunteer who handles all administrative activities. She explained the current Hospice team has no marketing or advertising expertise; bingo, we have a fit. We agree to a complete makeover of their current brochure and website. I write all the copy. Cheryl is wonderful to work with; she makes decisions quickly and feedback is immediate. The copy is approved and translated. Excellent, but I do not have a clue of how the brochure should look. Hospice is a tough story; it’s all about making your last days on earth pain free. Yes, it’s about dying with dignity. Hope has run out and Hospice offers morphine and care until the end. It’s exactly the reason Soren and I chose Hospice; not many people want to touch such an emotionally charged topic.

One day I get an e mail from Cheryl, just an FYI, about all the art hearts donated from their last fundraiser. Twenty local artists were given ten inch wooden hearts to create any design they wished and the donated heart art became part of the evening’s silent auction. They are all creative, which yielded high bids during the dance. I now knew what the graphics would be — different hearts sprinkled throughout the brochure. It is also a natural for the website. The hearts would become a brand. I paid a visit to David Robb, artist and ex-creative director of an ad agency in Phoenix. I needed some direction for our new look. He’s a typical creative director. I have the same conversation with David as I’ve had with every creative director in Toronto for the past 30 years. “The logo is gross and there’s too much fucking copy.”

“Yes, but the logo stays and the copy has been approved and translated.”

He’s huffs and puffs around his beautiful house and locates pencil and paper. He’s the best kind of creative director; he doesn’t need the computer for ideas because they are in his head and flow through his fingers. He did a pencil drawing of the front cover of the brochure, picked the type face and drew an ad. It is completely perfect. It took him ten minutes. Hospice now has an exciting brand with legs. I have the graphics, a layout and copy.

I just need a computer designer, a “Mac jockey”, to make it all work and to prep files for the printer. Just as I was contemplating this dilemma Cheryl sent me another gem. For the Hospice annual golf tournament, the firm Designa — a printer, with designers, produced all their materials. “Should I try them?” she asks me. I’m already e mailing them for an appointment. This is a world I am totally familiar with. Just not in Spanish. I meet with the owner of Designa, Sergio E. Letamendi Haas. His English is great, he’s eager, he’s so co-operative but his printing company only does signs and ink jets onto vinyl. I must print on paper. I am desperate for a designer. Sergio can see my disappointment, he can see my frustration and he does not hesitate to offer his designer, Jesus, for “anything that I need.” He also refers me to a printer, a few blocks from our Centro apartment. I have to put a budget together for Hospice. My first stop is the printer and we agree on a brochure size, a stock, the quantity and I get a price for the printing. Next stop is Sergio at Designa. “How much to design the brochures, ads and any other collateral material?”

“Absolutely no cost,” is Sergio’s response. I’m crying with relief. After Cheryl stops crying over the amount of pesos for printing, she approves the budget and I’m ready to roll. Jesus, the computer designer, does not speak a single word of English. Yet, it’s the most pleasurable, easy experience I’ve ever had with any designer. He gets the look, and oh boy, he’s fast. There’s no attitude, he loves what he does, he contributes wonderful elements to the brochure, he’s a pro. We just have to work around the World Cup soccer games but I’m fine with that.

During this process Soren sees the brochure is coming to a close so he begins to think about the website. We are all in awe of his internet brainwave. Amazon has a program for affiliates. A percentage of an online purchase goes toward what website you made your buy from. For instance, if you want to support Hospice Mazatlan you go to and click on the Amazon logo and you are on the Amazon site. It’s that easy. And it’s starting to pay off. Hospice has $36 (US) more than it did two weeks ago. Cheryl is thrilled, the Hospice board is grateful; it’s such a home run. I feel our volunteer work with Hospice will continue to be rewarding in ways we never expected.

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