Friends of Cozumel is an informal network of families, friends, colleagues, donors and volunteers who share a common interest in benefiting families in need as well as the broader community of Cozumel, Mexico. They just finished distributing backpacks with full complements of school supplies and individually fitted shoes for 300 students!
Our focus is connecting people and resources to …
- Promote volunteerism and develop local leadership skills
- Support education and learning for youth and adults. We strongly believe in providing developmental opportunities so people learn to help themselves.
- Benefit families and individuals who need assistance
- Benefit the community by sponsoring projects related to the environment, health and safety, culture, e
The Pedersens’ passion for frequent visits to Cozumel begged the question “Why not live and retire in a place you love?” They purchased a home on the island in 2001 when Karen retired from corporate America, refocused her energy on community service and began commuting between Des Moines, Iowa and Cozumel.
Karen spends 85% of the time on the island in various volunteer roles: Identify needs of local families and non-profit organizations that serve children and families; match visitors and resident volunteers/donors interested in helping the community with connections they need; coordinate community service activities; organize Friends of Cozumel mission project weeks; collaborate with other service/mission leaders to avoid duplicating efforts; administer donations consistent with donors’ intent; promote volunteerism and develop local leadership skills.
Larry loves to use his woodworking skills to build needed items for organizations and families. He frequently serves as volunteer project manager for construction/repair activities, the “go to” person to access hard-to-find resources, develops an informal network of business colleagues in the US, and provides technology support for Friends of Cozumel. Larry writes contemporary Christian music, plays the keyboard and shares these talents as part of his volunteer contributions. Pedersens enjoy scuba diving and traveling.
The Larsens started visiting Cozumel in the 1980s for scuba diving. The beautiful reefs; warm, clear sea and even warmer hospitality of island residents kept them coming back. It didn’t take long to learn that if you go to Cozumel to vacation AND volunteer, it’s easy to rationalize multiple trips per year. They participate in Friends of Cozumel mission trips and volunteer for various projects other times of the year.
Phyllis brings a University of Nebraska study abroad class to explore journalism and conduct service learning. She lends her public relations and communications expertise to promote Friends of Cozumel efforts and benefit the non-profit organizations we support. Gary helps with building projects, partners with his church to bring mission project funds and donated clothing as well as shares his love of contemporary Christian music. They rival any “Sherpa” team worldwide, having packed and schlepped literally thousands of pounds of donated goods from their home in Lincoln, Nebraska to the island in recent years.
The Larsens have recruited their extended family and friends visiting the island to participate in community service activities and they regularly help host visiting donors. Of course they always make time to do a little diving, reconnect with old friends and make some new ones, too. Decades of practice qualifies the Larsens to serve as your work/play consultants to help you rationalize a trip to Cozumel–and get involved!
The Kendricks are Friends of Cozumel from Sherman, Texas who are making a dramatic difference in helping others. They have completed several 7-10 day mission experiences to Cozumel and team with Pedersens to co-host Mission Trips sponsored by Friends of Cozumel. Their long-time commitment to community service, involvement in Christian mission efforts in the US, and enthusiasm for helping others leads friends to describe them as “two of the most giving people you’ll ever meet!” The Kendricks serve as directors for the Texoma Chapel Mission Fund that enables US tax deductible donations to be given to support Friends of Cozumel projects.
Ilene leads an annual cruise trip for S.A.I.L. (Solid Assurance In the Lord), a women’s bible study group that visits Cozumel and has developed an ongoing mission partnership with NUAFA as well as other community efforts. Believing that everyone should have the opportunity to give, Ilene coordinates donations of everything from “bras to bibles and beyond.”
Byron lends his construction and repair expertise to building projects. He has a special interest in providing children Christian learning materials to support local youth ministries. Byron enjoys taking digital photos and is usually surrounded by Cozumel children eager to see his pictures.
Ray and Sandy Ham’s journey to Cozumel began with a high school graduation trip to Cancun for their daughter Toni in 1990, that included a day trip to Cozumel. They began coming to the island once, twice, three times a year after that and fell in love with the people, the beautiful Caribbean and the astonishing world of diving. The Hams began construction of their home on the Island in 1998. Ray retired from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Sandy as Administrator of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and they made their move to full time retirement on Cozumel in 2004.
Sandy has been involved in non-profit and volunteer activities for over 25 years in the U.S in addition to community service efforts since relocating to the island; consequently she and Ray have become deeply committed to helping the community, especially the children in need.
With a lot of construction experience under their belts (including personally designing and constructing a two-story addition to their home in Indiana), they enjoy the hands-on work needed in many of the projects. As full time residents, they are happy to provide connections to new friends and resources, and help expand the reach of the Friends of Cozumel.
April Koss DiPasquale and her husband Bob first visited Cozumel nearly 25 years ago on the recommendation of a travel agent. “We were here only 24 hours before we bought a time share. We knew we wanted to come back often,” April said.
After retiring, they decided to live on the island full time and began volunteer work in the community. While April claims she “doesn’t do projects,” she does bring considerable talent to Friends of Cozumel efforts. Her philosophy is “feed them well and they will come back.” That’s worked very well so far. Her passion for cooking translates into wonderful meals and ‘happy hours’ for our volunteers. They describe her as “a wonderful hostess” and “the fuel of our engine.”
April finds her cooking inspiration in the stores and markets where the fresh produce is as colorful as any Diego Rivera mural. And her food is just one way of reaching out to friends in Cozumel.
“April is very good with connections to people in the community,” says Karen Pedersen. “Not only to those who can help us but to those who need our help. Her contributions have led to even greater involvement and that’s a win-win for all of us.”
It was always April and Bob’s dream to live in Cozumel. Unfortunately, Bob passed away in 2009. “He always wanted to do what he could to help the people here,” said April. “So now I’m going to do the work for both of us.”
More Friends…What began 9 years ago as Pedersen’s and Larsen’s extended family effort to give back to the community has grown into an amazing source of interest, volunteer talent and resources. Several years ago we initiated an occasional newsletter to identify community needs, express appreciation to volunteers and donors, report how donations are used and provide project updates. This site now serves as our primary communication with the informal network of donors, volunteers and other supporters we refer to as “Friends of Cozumel.” For more info go to FRIENDS.
General information, to make donations or volunteer contact:
Karen Pedersen Karen@friendsofcozumel.com
Cell Phone—from the US dial: 515-249-3060 (rings to Karen in the US & in Mexico)
Cozumel Cell Phone – 987-564-4830
Cozumel Phone—for local dial in Cozumel: 869-2049
If you would like further information about “Friends of Cozumel” you may contact us by emailing Karen Pedersen: firstname.lastname@example.org.