La Voz Latina - Su puente a la comunidad Hispana de Georgia y Carolina del sur

A dream come true

  • (Izq. A Der.) Elly Hinojosa, Corina Florez, Sr. Panuncio Garcia-Pacheco, Andrea Hinojosa, y dos sobrinos del Sr. Panuncio.
  • Sr. Panuncio en área de descanso en Texas.

 

     15 years ago  Mexican national, Panuncio Garcia-Pacheco, settled in Toombs County, Georgia where he found jobs raking pine straw and picking blueberries. Like many undocumented immigrants who come to the US looking for work, he gradually lost touch with his family. By all accounts, the 65-year-old was a quiet and friendly man.
     For many years Panuncio  dreamed of returning home to Tamaulipas, Mexico. But when he was diagnosed this summer with congestive heart failure, that dream seemed beyond hope. Doctors at the Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia said his body was slowly drowning due to fluid build-up in his lungs. When his condition was deemed incurable, the decision was made to transfer him to hospice care.
     Sue Meeks is the family case manager at Meadows Regional and deals with health crises on a daily basis. Realizing that Panuncio had no medical insurance or family to assist him, she put out a call to friends at work and throughout the community to help the dying man make it back to his family in Mexico. After two days of concentrated effort, Meeks and her friends had raised enough money to pay his travel expenses.
     Chapman Pharmacy loaned Panuncio a portable oxygen concentrator for use during his journey and also donated a refurbished home oxygen generator for him to use once he reached his destination. The local hospice loaned a medical transport chair. Father Ben Dallas, the parish priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Vidalia, solicited monetary donations from church members.
      Mexican-American sisters Andrea Cruz and Corina Florez of nearby Lyons, Georgia, have spent the past 20 years providing outreach services to Hispanics living in the farming communities throughout “Sweet Onion Country”. Like most other charitable service organizations, the Southeast Georgia Communities Project (SEGCP), has seen its share of ups and downs, with program funding adequate some years and nearly non-existent at other times.
     But through it all, there have been moments of pure joy and satisfaction that sustain them and make their life's work worthwhile. When Meeks called for help, the sisters volunteered their agency van to make the 2500 mile round trip to transport Panuncio to the Mexican border at Brownsville, Texas.
     “We were already acquainted with Mr. Panuncio because my sister used to drive him to medical appointments at the burn centers in Augusta and Valdosta,” Corina Flores said. “He was a sweet man and we felt bad that he might pass away so far from home. We were just amazed at the generosity of people in this community. One friend who owns a fruit business wrote a check for $300.”
     To accompany them on their journey, Corina enlisted her niece, Ellie, a certified nursing assistant, to attend to Mr. Panuncio's medical needs and her brother, Henry, as the group's driver and emergency auto mechanic.
     The final part of the puzzle fell into place when Corina's husband volunteered to build a makeshift bed so Mr. Panuncio could ride in comfort.
     “It was an 18-hour trip to Brownsville,” Andrea Hinojosa said. “I was worried the entire time that Mr. Panuncio might not survive as he was very nervous and his breath was very labored. Then  something magical happened when we were about 50 miles from Brownsville. Mr. Panuncio saw a road sign for the Mexican border and this peace just came over his spirit. By the time we connected with his two nephews at the border crossing, he was totally at relaxed and at peace. His spirit was truly renewed.”
     In spite of money worries, the Southeast Georgia Communities Project continues to perform vital services for Hispanic families living in the area.  Their office space includes a food and clothing pantry and Corina Flores spends long hours in the office each week answering questions and making referrals. When she's not also working in the office, Andrea Hinojosa spends her time mentoring two Latina Girl Scout Troops, the Green Teens and The Sprouts, who are slowly becoming master gardeners under her tutelage.
     If you would like to make a charitable contribution to the Southeast Georgia Communities Project  or get more information about the services they offer, please call (912) 526-5451.  

Issue Month: 
Thursday, September 3, 2015