San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Concert Helps Home for Abandoned Elderly

THE Little Theatre Group will onceagain host a concert fundraiser for ElHogar Tom & Norman, a shelter for theelderly established by The Angel of LoveFoundation.Since its inception in 1997, the foundationhas achieved miracles. Its first humanitarianendeavor was the collaboration andfinancial assistance of Tom Johnston andNorman Brown (both now dead) withAlexis Barquero, who had abandoned hisstudies for the priesthood to serve peopleoutside the church. Together they openedCosta Rica’s first AIDS shelter in an isolatedhouse in the hills of Heredia.In 1999 they initiated a new crusade inthe small village of La Rita outside theCaribbean-slope town of Guápiles. Awarethat care for abandoned and homelesselderly was virtually non-existent, theyestablished a shelter, El Hogar Tom &Norman, in an abandoned stable donatedby the Asociación Econo Agro S.A. dePococí.With Barquero at the helm, the ramshacklebuilding was restored and partitionedinto a bathroom, living area, kitchenand two five-bed dormitories. Electricitywas connected, secondhand furnishings,linens and appliances donated and the firstten abuelos (grandparents) moved in. Theywere – as are current residents – taken careof by Barquero and a group of volunteersfrom the village.ADOPTED by this surrogate family,the old people’s tragic lives of begging onthe streets for a crust of bread and sleepingin doorways or under bridges came to anend. Today, only one of the original residents,whose ages ranged from 70-92, isstill alive. The rest had tender loving carefor their final years and were laid to rest inthe home’s own tomb in the cemetery.The home can accommodate only 12,and the waiting list is endless. Tragic storiesof the homeless pour in ad infinitum.Hospitals all over the country call to see ifthere is room for patients they have to discharge.In most cases, the only place forthem to go is back on the streets.THANKS to a benefactor’s gift, theadjoining property was purchased andmaterials donated, and a new building nowhouses the infirmary and women’s quarters,which sleeps two to a room. A thirdbuilding for the men is already under construction.The Angel of Love Foundationcontinues to operate without any governmentfunding, relying entirely on the dedicationof volunteers from the village, giftsin kind and cash donations from supportersand organizations.Every year, a birthday celebrationorganized by the community, with bingo,dancing and entertainment, helps raisefunds for daily operations.The Public Health Ministry has threatenedto close them down and continues tocarry out monthly inspections. The hometries to meet demands one by one. Thanksto ongoing donations, the water problemwas solved by digging a well, and a firehazardaverted by re-wiring. Gifts of hospitalbeds, wheelchairs and walkers arenow in use, in addition to a much-appreciatedTV and washing machine.“THE home continues to operateunder adverse financial restrictions andbureaucratic demands. We carry on withlove, faith in God and the amazing generosityof our supporters,” Barquero said.The purchase of the remaining neighborhoodproperty is essential for futureexpansion. Matching funds have beenoffered by one donor for any donationspecifically designated for this project.The Little Theatre Group FundraisingChristmas Concert is at 2 p.m. on Sunday,Dec. 19, at the Blanche Brown Theatre inBello Horizonte, in the western suburb ofEscazú.THE group El Ebano (two violins,viola and cello) will perform a mixed programof classical and traditional Christmasmusic. Members of the National SymphonyOrchestra, Ana Alfaro, GabrielaAlfaro, Catherine Hayes and MercedesRodríguez have kindly volunteered onceagain to donate their time and talent.Now a tradition, this delightful concertraises much-needed funds for the home andhas become a yearly holiday-season event.Admission is free, but donations ofcash, non-perishable food, linens, toiletries,cleaning materials and Christmastreats would be very much appreciated.For information regarding donations,call Don Havener at 282-7794 or JohnMilde at 289-4481.Reservations are not required, but forfurther information and directions to thetheater, call 355-1623.

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