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Generations volunteer at Our Lady of Sorrows event

By Brian Cuaron
Aug. 7, 2011 at 3:07 a.m.

Christal Martinez, 7, holds a toy fishing rod high while playing a game during the Jamaica event held by Our Lady of Sorrows at the Victoria Community Center on Sunday. The annual event included a special section with games and activities where parents could take their children.

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Our Lady of Sorrows' annual Jamaica event started sometime around WWI.

This year's event featured an auction, a cake walk, food, games and more.

For more information, visit the Our Lady of Sorrows' website, ourladysorrows.org

Our Lady of Sorrows church may minister to souls, but its annual Jamaica event keeps families together.

For a day, at least.

"They don't ever make us come. We just come in on our own," said Vanessa Villafranca, 27.

Her family has been involved with the event for decades. The event started sometime around World War I and raises money for the parish through the sales of tamales, gorditas and even beer.

Through the years, some families have begun a tradition of volunteering at the event through generations.

Tali Villafranca, a 56-year-old attorney turned auctioneer on Sunday, remembered when it was around the downtown gazebo. This year marked his 40th year participating in the Jamaica, and his father used to volunteer at the event before him.

Tali Villafranca hopes that tradition goes on after him.

"When they get through with college, they'll be the next generation," he said about his children.

Tali Villafranca need look no further than his niece to see how the family's volunteerism continues.

Vanessa Villafranca and her sisters used to come from Houston and Austin every year. She added that some of her cousins from Dallas have also helped out with the event.

"It just makes me happy being with my family," she said.

The Villafrancas weren't the only ones with longstanding ties to the Jamaica.

Becky Guarjardo, 79, remembered dancing the folklorico at the event when she was as young as 7. She once had to put her hair up and dance as a boy because there were too many girls, she said.

Her daughter also danced for the event when she was younger.

Although her knees were now too weak to stand, Guarjardo sold about 400 raffle tickets.

Pearl Albarado said her father began helping 10 years ago. Now, she, her siblings and their kids also help.

"It's just a really good feeling," Albarado said about volunteering with her family.

Tali Villafranca said he knew of other families who have volunteered through several generations.

Turning to the crowd in the Victoria Community Center, he remarked on all those involved by quoting from his deceased father.

"We're not a rich parish, but we're rich in numbers," he said.

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