Dr. Keith Phillips
Translation: "Do good things for others with a blind eye and an open heart." (Motto of Norteños Mezquital.)
Francisco "Paco" Rodriquez traces his roots as a lab technician to his hometown of Mezquital, Mexico. Paco's brother, Dr. Bonfilio Rodriquez, a dentist in Mezquital, arranged for Paco to work in a dental lab after high school. After completing formal dental lab training in Monterey, Mexico, Paco, lured by the prospect of money and opportunity, moved to Fort Myers, Fla., in 1992. With a dream of owning his own dental lab and becoming a master technician, Paco told his mother, "I am going to the United States to save some money to buy a porcelain oven."
Paco at Peak Performance
Finding dental lab work in Ft. Myers proved to be difficult, and Paco was forced to take a job in construction for a few years. In 1995, he found a job working in a furniture factory in High Point, N.C. With the help of his brother, who was then also living in High Point and volunteering as a translator at a free dental clinic, Paco finally made the connection that would return him to the dental lab business. With a bit more training and lots of hard work, Paco and his wife, Maria, were finally able to realize their dream and opened "Peak Performance Dental Lab" in 1999.
New retirement center in Mezquital
In September 2003, Paco completed all qualifications for United States citizenship and eagerly awaits the ceremony that will install upon him full citizenship. Nevertheless, he has not forgotten the many needs of the people in his hometown. Mezquital, a small village of about 4,000, is located near the city of Durango in northwestern Mexico. Paco and his co-worker/employee/friend, Humberto Moreno, along with about 60 other High Point residents from the Mezquital area, began sending $5 per month each back to Mezquital to help provide food, shelter, clothing, and medical assistance to the needy people of their village.
The "Norteños Mezquital"
For genuinely giving people like Paco and Humberto, somehow, the $300 each month seemed impersonal and inadequate. They wanted to do more. Humberto and his brother, Antonio, recognized that so many young people had moved away from their town that, in many cases, no one was left to take care of the growing elderly population. At a party one evening, Humberto and Antonio suggested the group build a facility in Mezquital to address this problem, and the "Norteños Mezquital" (ones who moved to the United States) was born. Officers were elected, contacts in Mezquital were made, and a new non-profit foundation was formed. Property was donated and master drawings were made for the building which the committee hopes will ultimately house and care for 10 full-time residents.
The building process started with a core group of 15 people each "loaning" $1,000 to the foundation. Each person then drew a number that determined the order in which they would be paid back in $500 increments. The local government of Mezquital matched the funds, and the group is pursuing matching funds from the Federal Government of Mexico. The first phase was completed in December and provides a new home for the first four residents. A total of $60,000 of the needed $250,000 has now been raised. The group holds at least one fundraiser each month to support the continuation of this wonderful project. Their hope and plan is for completion and occupation of the entire project within the next year.
When asked why they do this, Paco and Humberto say simply, "Haz el bien sin mirar a quien." (Do good things without concerning yourself over who it is you are helping.) A giving spirit and a willingness to work hard for the things in life that are truly important with a commitment to giving back have made this grand dream a reality for two of our newest citizens.
To get involved with this project, contact Patronato Norteños Mezquital, D.C. Mezquital, Durango, Mexico 34970
Dr. Keith Phillips maintains a private practice in Winston-Salem, N.C. He is president and founder of The Giving Hand Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to the start-up and development of free medical and dental clinics. Dr. Phillips also serves as a teaching associate at the L.D. Pankey Institute and is on the faculty of the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.