This Month’s VIP’s: Randy and Sandi Nystrom
I met with Randy and Sandi one afternoon in their favorite haunt, YO YO MO’s. These are two people who really don’t want to be “in the limelight,“ but agreed to be interviewed if I downplayed their personal biographies and focused on the important work that they do in running the operation of the John Ozzello Memorial Food Bank and Humanitarian Aid.
Sandi: In a bar, of course.
Randy: She was there with a date…
Sandi: who was one of Randi’s employees…
Randy: and we just hit it off.
I: When and where was that?
Randy: 1999, in Lethbridge, Alberta.
Sandi: Seven children…
Randy: and 15 grandchildren…
Sandi: from different marriages.
I: When did you come down to Bucerias?
Randy: Well, we’d been visiting down here for a while. We first stayed at the Royal DeCameron, which we really liked a lot back then.
Sandi: Then we bought a condo next to Ixta Restaurant in 2006.
Randy: Since then, we’ve moved to Otono. I guess we moved down here permanently in 2008.
I: How did you get involved with the John Ozzello fund?
Randy: Well, we joined the Amigos de Bucerias in 2008. Harold Sokolov was president then. Then John [Ozzello] became president. We’d already met John because we played poker together.
Sandi: The food bank was John’s idea. He saw a need for a food drive due to an epidemic of Swine Flu, and asked if we’d help him. After about five months, he handed the project over to us.
I: What are some of the projects you’ve headed up?
Randy: We’ve distributed food regularly through the Bilingual Center [now defunct], La Fuente Church, Casa Clu, the Abuelos de Bucerias [formerly known as the Tecera Edad]…
Sandi: here, in Mascota, Cruz Verde, Tecuani, Guaymuchil, and other pueblos.
Randy: We’ll be starting in Mescales in May.
Sandi: We’ve also trained people in the Amigos de Lo de Marcos in how to work a food bank.
I: Wow, how do you fund all this?
Randy: Individuals donate, but we really rely on the big fundraisers.
Sandi: We started the Whale Watching fundraiser five years ago, and that’s been going strong every year. We had 88 people on the first one, and now we’re over 200.
Randy: The Beatles Tribute [at the Drunken Duck] has been going on for two years. That pulls in a lot of money too.
Sandi: And we’ve had a great association with YoYoMo’s since 2009.
Randy: I don’t think we’d ever be able to pull all this off without the YoYo Mo’s fundraisers, with big thanks to owners, Glen and Tanya.
I: Do you dispense out more than food?
Sandi: Yes, we’ve recently added all kinds of things: clothes, school supplies, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, you name it.
Randy: We’re now getting a lot of donations of clothing and other supplies from Canada. This is why we’ve named ourselves the John Ozzello Memorial Food Bank and Humanitarian Aid, and are a registered AC [Mexican non-profit organization.]
Sandi: So now Westjet and Air Transat will transport bundles of donations for free.
I: This all sounds like a lot of work. How many hours do you spend on this fund?
Randy: I guess about 20 hours a week or so…
Sandi: except when we have emergencies, like the operation in the mountains from the devastation of Hurricane Patricia [last summer.]
I: What about volunteer help?
Sandi: It seems like we always have as many volunteers as the crisis or need demands…
Randy: but our regular volunteers who we can always count on are Maureen and Dave Leslie, and Gary Winchester [the “Raffleman“ at YoYo Mo’s.]
I: Does anyone get paid for this work?
Sandi: No, not a person…
Randy: not even Hugo Rivas [the realtor] who volunteers his time as our accountant.
I: How long do you intend to keep doing this work?
Sandi: As long as we’ve got.
Randy: Yeah, as long as we’ve got.