It all started with one cane and one wheelchair.

That’s how Rosalba Valencia de Correa described the beginning of her nonprofit, Los Abuelos de Arteaga Michoacán.

Also known as The Happy Grandparents, Valencia de Correa created the nonprofit to benefit needy seniors in her hometown. Called Arteaga, the small town is in Michoacán, Mexico.

Valencia de Correa, who lives in American Canyon and is a senior caregiver by trade, said she felt compelled to help the elders in the town who live alone. Some had no food. Others could not walk or get out of bed.

“I feel for seniors. When I see seniors that need help, I need to help them.”

Gathering that first cane and wheelchair, which she bought at a garage sale, Valencia de Correa sent the items with some of her family members who were traveling to Arteaga in 2010.

The idea clicked and Valencia de Correa began to collect more durable medical equipment.

By March 2015, she’d gathered up 26 items including wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and transport chairs. After a trucking company offered to subsidize the shipping, the items were wrapped on four pallets and driven to Arteaga.

Some two dozen people in Arteaga, including two disabled children, were the grateful recipients, she said.

Valencia de Correa then started the “long and complicated” process of registering as a legal nonprofit in both the U.S. and Mexico.

“This is more than a hobby,” she said. “I wanted to do it right.”

Los Abuelos de Arteaga Michoacán and the Happy Grandparents have since earned official nonprofit status.

By July 2017, Valencia de Correa and volunteers had assembled their biggest donation haul yet: 1,200 items including hospital beds, canes, crutches, walkers, bath chairs, wheelchairs and more.

“We never realized how complicated” such a large delivery would become, she admitted. The shipping container became stuck at a port in Mexico and it took four months of pleas and negotiations to release the delivery.

“It was a big achievement,” she recalled.

Since then, Valencia de Correa has gathered up more than 2,300 items, all currently stored in a rental unit in American Canyon.

She and her nonprofit board are trying to raise some $4,800 to pay for the shipping of those items to Michoacán.

At the same time, the nonprofit has also begun to fund a meal delivery service in her hometown. Similar to Meals on Wheels in the U.S., it provides one meal a day to some 70 seniors who are homebound.

For just $150 a week, the group can rent a kitchen area and buy and prepare hot meals including soup, tortillas, rice and beans and vegetables.

About 15 volunteers in Arteaga help cook and deliver the food. Photos in a scrapbook she has created show the seniors receiving their meals. On Mother’s Day, special baskets were distributed to those seniors.

She hopes to create a senior center including a farm and nursery where the elders can be involved. A benefactor has already donated 5 acres for the land.

“It’s my dream” to build such a home, she said.

She’d also like to expand the service to other smaller towns similar to Arteaga.

“I feel blessed,” Valencia de Correa said. “It’s a great privilege” to help these seniors.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.