BY THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
The American Benevolent Society (ABS) held its 148th general meeting and cherry pie festival at the U.S. Embassy residence Monday night, with a larger than usual turnout.
During the meeting, which was hosted by the embassy’s acting chief of mission, William H. Duncan and his wife Nora Duncan, the 2016 winners of the annual Cherry Pie Award for Community Service were announced. The prizes were awarded to the ABS’ fulltime physician Ricardo Rojas, staff member Genny Mooser and volunteer Roberto Figueroa for their outstanding efforts last year in helping an elderly U.S. citizen who lived in Ixtapan de la Sal, in the State of Mexico, who was dying of cancer.
The annual award, which includes a home-baked cherry pie and a plaque acknowledging their efforts, is a reference to the cherry tree that George Washington allegedly chopped down in his youth.
The ABS was founded on Washington’s birthday in 1868.
Also during the meeting, the new board of directors was elected unanimously, with Bill Biese remaining at the helm as president.
After the customary readings of the ABS president’s report, treasurer’s report and administrative director’s report, Duncan made a brief speech thanking the 148-year-old American Benevolent Society for its “excellent work on behalf of U.S. citizens in Mexico.”
“The embassy has no higher duty, and no higher purpose, than assisting U.S. citizens,” he said.
“It is at the very core of our mission overseas … and one of our most important partners in this effort has been the American Benevolent Society.”
Duncan went on to say that the ABS’ role in helping U.S. citizens in need of financial, medical, physical, psychological or moral assistance “is irreplaceable and invaluable.”
He also spoke about the ABS’ recent efforts to help document Mexican children born in the United States without proper registration, which, according to some accounts, represent more than 600,000 youngsters with no legal identity.
The embassy is working closely with the ABS and Mexican authorities to help get these children registered both in the United States and Mexico through a pilot program sponsored in large part through a $60,000 grant from the International Rotary Club.
Duncan said that the ABS’ efforts to ensure that these vulnerable children “are on track to achieve their full potential as citizens of both the United States and Mexico” were immeasurable.
Carlos Leonardo Madrid Varela, president of the Mexico City Private Assistance Board (JAP), also commended the ABS, which is one of the 10 oldest public service entities nationwide, for being “a shining example of how a nonprofit service organization should work.”
ABS executive director Barbara Franco outlined some of the other ways the ABS helps U.S. citizens, including monthly health checkups, an annual health fair, its continued learning classes for the elderly, the Caza Libros used bookstore, the loaning of crutches and wheelchairs for people in need, and its longstanding relationship with the ABC Medical Center, founded in 1886 by the ABS as the American Hospital, which later merged with the British Cowdray Hospital.
The American Benevolent Society is a non-profit organization that provides charitable assistance to both U.S. and Mexican nationals during periods of personal distress or financial need.
Its offices are located inside Union Church at Paseo de la Reforma 1870 in Colonia Lomas de Chapultepec (tel: 5540-5123).