Welcome – Zaragoza Rotarians

Last month we were very happy to welcome the Zaragoza Rotary Club when they visited the Tree of Hopes Comedor Project.  Rotarians Claudia Urista and Ofelia Mletzko joined me for lunch in the Comedor with Velia Hernandez and Victor Villalobos and nearly 30 children.

Claudia and Ofelia treated everyone to pizza and cookies and gave each child school supplies.  Rotarians are working on many humanitarian projects in Juarez and we hope that they will continue to help families living in Anapra.

To help raise funds for all the important projects they are working including Rotacare, the Zaragoza Rotary Club of El Paso will present their First Annual Holiday Harmony Concert with internationally renown Italian Pianist Francesco Attesti. The concert will also feature Adian Salas, Opera Baritone, El Paso Native and UTEP Graduate.   Click here for ticket information.


Currently, Francesco Attesti performs regularly in internationally prestigious concert halls [4] like: Philharmonia Hall of Saint Petersburg, Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Moscow, Mozarteum of Salzburg, Philharmonie Essen, International Piano Festival of Warsaw, Sarajevo Winter Festival, Cambridge University, Leicester University, Columbia University in New York, Denver University in Colorado, and the Conservatory Giuseppe Verdi in Milan.

New water line installed

Volunteers helped put in a new water line for the Comedor Aposento Alto this week.  Special thanks to Manuel Payan seen here and Velia Hernandez’s son Nestor for all their help.

This is a great time of year to work on projects to help improve the Comedor complex.  We still need help repairing leaky roofs and donations to help with the cost of heating this winter.

Van donated by El Paso Church

Tree blog

A badly needed used GMC 3500 van with air conditioning was recently donated to the Comedor by the Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana.  Tree of Hopes is always looking for volunteers to help continue efforts to help needy families at the Comedor in Juarez.   The van is already being used to help transport children to the facility.   You can donate online using our PayPal account and all contributions are tax deductible.

The woman who keeps the doors open at the Comedor


As the sun sets on the desert near the slopes of Mount Cristo Rey in Juarez, Velia Hernandez is in her kitchen preparing dinner and getting ready for the week ahead at the Aposento Alto Comedor.  The small complex of rustic buildings in the far northwest corner of Juarez features a multi-purpose dining room where she and her husband Victor Villalobos have been feeding and helping thousands of families since 2009.  Situated near the base of a small desert mesa in the community of Anapra, the facility includes classrooms that serve as dormitories for free medical clinics including eye exams and cancer screenings, music lessons and a place for volunteers from all across the US to spend the night as they cross the border and help build homes for needy families.


Everything that happens in this little corner of the world happens because of caring people mainly in El Paso who help with money and food to keep everything going.  Last month the Comedor received a generous donation of food boxes filled with cereal, fruit and other nutritious items to give to the children who visit every week.  I was able to help load up everything into the 2001 Dodge Ram Van for the trip back to Juarez.

With the help of her husband Victor every day Velia makes sure that everything happens in this little corner of the world.  As I have witnessed her dedication to the work of the Comedor, it is obvious to me that she is one of the unsung local heroes making a difference here the El Paso – Juarez region.   I am proud to know her and support the work that she is doing.

Thank you Rotary


By Rick LoBello, treeofhopes.com

As I write this story I am very happy to report that my Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of West El Paso Foundation are helping to grow a new program on our border with Juarez called Tree of Hopes.    The mission of Tree of Hopes is to support humanitarian efforts to help needy families living along the US Mexico border in the Juarez, Chihuahua – El Paso, Texas region.  The signature project is at the Comedor Aposento Alto A.C.  Ongoing programs at the Comedor include feeding needy children and hosting music lessons sponsored by the Focus Association in Juarez.

Most of my friends know that I grew up in Western New York near Buffalo.  Almost every year the area gets plenty of cold and snow.  Up until recently during the winter months I would make comments to friends in El Paso about I hoped it would snow because I miss the beauty of the snow and ice that I grew up with.  The desert and mountains here in El Paso are so beautiful when it snows.  But now I have changed.  Something happened to me a little over four months ago on Christmas Eve.  I spent the holiday with my friends at the Comedor in one of the poorest areas in northern Juarez.  The community is called Anapra.  Over the years millions of people have seen this area from a distance driving on I-10 through West El Paso near Sunland Park and Mount Cristo Rey.  As one leaves downtown El Paso and passes UTEP you can see close views of the neighboring Felipe Angeles.  Just north of Felipe Angeles is Anapra.


For years I was one of those millions of people driving by this area of Juarez.  As a result of my visit on Christmas Eve I now know more about what is happening on the edge of our city.  For thousands of families the struggle to survive is heart breaking.  There is extreme poverty. I hope and pray that as a result of Tree of Hopes more people will become aware of the situation and want to help.

On Christmas eve I joined Nestor, his sister Grissel and Roberto on a journey across Anapra and Felipe Angeles to help take food and blankets to people in need.  I will never forget the family living high up on a ridge in a house covered with blankets for insulation and the children who lived there.

house and blankets

I will never forget the man with one leg who had an infection on his foot and who lived in a little shack with one room and a small wood stove for heat.  I will never forget the elderly couple who also lived in such a sad and uncomfortable place.   They looked so sad.  My eyes fill with tears when I think about them.

man with one leg

I have learned so much about the poor people who live in such terrible conditions so close to our border with Mexico.  There are organizations trying to help them, but obviously the need is so great and more help is needed.   That’s why with the help of the West El Paso Rotary Foundation I am organizing a new non-profit effort called Tree of Hopes.  A website has been started and there are many ways every person who reads this can help.

When working on a conservation education project not long ago a friend of my said that if you want people to help these days many people want to know what’s in it for me.  Well I can tell you that if you help these people you will experience a great feeling inside knowing that you are doing something good for our world and other human beings.

As you drive down 1-10 and look over into Mexico across from UTEP you can see all the houses on the mountain side.  During the winter  you can often see smoke coming from them.    The smoke is not coming from heated homes with fireplaces.  The smoke is coming from small wood stoves with people sitting near them breathing dangerous fumes as they try to stay warm with what blankets they have.

elderly couple

We have some beautiful artwork on I-10 with nice painted bridges, statues and ornaments and lighted structures across from the new Fountains shopping center.   We also have smoke stacks and little lights coming from homes with people who are suffering all within view of our expensive new cars as we zip down the highway.

With the help of the Juarez Executive Rotary Club and the Municipal Government of Juarez the Aposento Alto dining room was opened in February of 2009. Since that time thousands of children living in one of the poorest communities in Juarez have received warm food served by volunteers. Please help us reach our goal of raising $100,000 to sustain this effort over the next few years.

Let us hear from you.  Tell us how you want to be a part of the tree.  You can be a part of the trunk, a branch, a stem, a leaf, a flower or simply a ray of sunshine or nourishment for the soil.  To make a donation click the PayPal link below.  To follow our progress and learn more go to our Contact page.   Thank you for taking time to learn about Tree of Hopes.



Comedor hosts volunteers

Yesterday I drove to the Comedor Aposento Alto in far northwest Juarez where over 50 volunteers from Colorado and California were

staying while building a home for a needy family as part of a larger effort in the area coordinated by Casas Por Cristo. At dinner tonight the group will hear a presentation on the Comedor’s need for expanded restrooms and showers and a bus that is needed to help transport children to and from the facility. Special thanks to everyone who is in the area this week working to make our world a better place for people in need.


We are the tree


by Rick LoBello

One day Nestor Ramirez told me a story that really touched my heart.   It is a simple story of how God has touched his life and how he wants to make a difference in helping the poor people of his community.  Nestor lived in Anapra, an area of Juarez that I and so many of us in El Paso have seen from a distance, but have never been to.  Anapra is a neighborhood in the city of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which borders the Rio Grande. It is one of the poorest communities within the city.

Not long ago I visited Nestor’s home and met his family.   It was my first visit to Juarez in nearly ten years.  They live next to a small church called Aposento Alto.  Nestor’s parents minister to the people of Anapra and help to feed the hungry.   Tree of Hopes plans to help them in many ways in buying food for the Church to feed the hungry and to build homes for those who live in very sad conditions.

I hope that you will want to help this tree of hopes grow into something beautiful.   The seed has been planted and I am helping it grow.   Will you join me?
Please fill out the contact form to learn more about how you can help.

If you would like to donate now please do so.  We need about $2000 a month to keep the current program going to pay all the bills and buy food to feed the children of Anapra.