OLDS — Members of the Rotary Club of Olds are already planning their next trip to donate decommissioned emergency or other vehicles to Mexico.
One club member has offered town council members a chance to make the trip. The catch is they have to become members of the Rotary Club of Olds.
Mary Turner made that offer as members of the club appeared before Olds council recently. Their purpose was to update council on how a trip to donate vehicles to Mexico in the spring, called the Los Amigos project, turned out.
The club tries to donate at least one vehicle a year. However, they were unable to do so for a couple of years due to COVID restrictions.
Two vehicles were donated this year: a decommissioned Town of Olds Sunshine Bus, also known as a handi-van or handi-bus, and a 1996 ambulance donated by Cor DeJong and former town councillor Debbie Bennett.
They joined a convoy of seven vehicles donated by communities and driven by about 15 Rotarians primarily from Central and Southern Alberta.
“Thanks for providing the equipment,” said Olds Rotarian Randy Smith. “Without that equipment there is no project and we can't go there.”
It took about seven days to complete the journey.
Once they reached the U.S./Mexican border three Mexican Rotary members arrived to drive with them down to Mazatlan.
“Thank goodness, because we did get pulled over by the Federales (Mexican federal officers),” Smith said.
Fortunately, the Mexican Rotarians were able to sort the matter out and the trip was completed.
Smith said the Mexicans are really grateful to receive the donated vehicles.
“They really do go a long ways in helping people get out of their small communities,” he said, adding that the handi-buses and vans improve their passengers’ lives, enabling them to see “what other opportunities are out there.”
Turner said members of the Rotary Club of Olds are already planning their next trip down to Mexico with donated vehicles. It's tentatively slated to occur next April.
She said they’d be delighted to have some town councillors participate in that drive.
"When you think back to kindergarten, if you ever really wanted to drive a firetruck – or ride in a firetruck, because I don’t have my airbrake endorsement – here's your opportunity,’ she said.
But there’s just one catch.
Drivers have to be Rotary Club members.
“Now I understand why I didn’t get on the shortlist, you have to become a member," said Coun. Dan Daley, who was serving as deputy mayor at the time.
“Thank you very much for your presentation and the great stories that go along with your efforts,” he said.
"All the Rotarians should be very proud of the project that you’re doing and how you’re helping out the communities in Mexico.”
Turner said a Rotarian from the Brooks club has written a little book about a fire truck from Olds, along with another about a school bus donated from Brooks.
"One of our dreams would be to create these stories in Spanish and to distribute them to the children in the communities where we distribute the vehicles,” she said.
Council voted to thank the Rotary Club of Olds for its Los Amigos presentation and to accept it for information.