By KELIN DILLON
Mexico’s American Benevolent Society (ABS) held its 153rd Annual General Meeting via Zoom on the evening of Monday, Feb. 22, celebrating over a century and a half of serving the U.S. community in Mexico, and handing out its annual Cherry Pie Award for community service.
ABS President Bill Biese, who has served on the board for over 31 years, called the meeting to order, noting that there had not been an in-person meeting for the ABS since 2020’s general meeting, which predated the unexpected covid-19 lockdowns by only a few weeks.
Biese said that, despite the world having been frozen socially by coronavirus, the attendance for ABS board meetings had gone up in the past year, since their virtual nature made the sessions easier to attend due to a lack of traffic. Biese mentioned finding a positive light to the new-pandemic world, saying “20-20 hindsight has taken on a whole new meaning” following the strange events of last year, and highlighting the importance of the relationship between the ABS and Centro Médico ABC during this time, when health has become a priority.
ABS Treasury Robert Sonnenburger noted that the society had had a “financially good year” and pointed out the 39.76 billion pesos in economic aid its members had come together and raised to donate to Centro Médico ABC last year. Sonnenburger also said that while in 2019 the ABS was operating on a deficit, in 2020 it had an operating surplus of some 608,000 pesos.
Executive Director Aliki Elias, in her second year in the position, talked about how the ABS had reached out to Mexico’s American community throughout the pandemic, noting how it provided laptops and tablets to members who needed them to work from home or communicate with loved ones during isolation. Elias also said the ABS created virtual hang-out meetings to keep social activity up among members and create a fun way to bond together.
Jose Zubiria, director of the Centro Médico ABC, spoke more about the alliance between the ABS and the hospital complex, pointing out how the ABS came through “in this moment of crisis” with donations- He said that the funds helped the Centro Médico ABC to “treat complex patients that other hospitals didn’t have the capability to treat.”
Mark Iver Sylte, director of the American School Foundation (ASF), also spoke, reiterating his commitment for education to resume in-person on the school’s campus, and Fernando Balzaretti, president of Junta Asistencia Privada, lauded the ABS for its service to Mexico’s U.S. community throughout the pandemic.
U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John S. Creamer highlighted how the ABS helped Americans find out what services they could receive at the embassy, and said that “the ABS is a vital partner in bridging this gap (between the embassy and the community), whether financially or through its impressive contacts.”
Finally, the American Benevolent Society presented its annual Cherry Pie Award for community service to “the front-line workers of the Covid-19 Pandemic of ABC Medical Center,” applauding the hospital’s medical personnel for all their hard-fought efforts against coronavirus.