The feature story below was written by Natalie McLain as part of an assignment for The Selling Power of Storytelling class, Spring 2021, at St. John Fisher College. Doctor Monica A. Hodis, Associate Professor of Marketing, selected Pack for a Purpose as a client for her class. Natalie McLain chose Margarita Pilier as the person they wished to interview and write a story about.
The Grupo Puntacana Foundation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic has been dedicated to serving its local community for decades in many different ways including building schools and clinics, supporting sustainability initiatives, and helping to fund other important local projects. Bettering the Punta Cana area has always been the mission of the Grupo Puntacana Foundation, so when an employee told them about Pack for a Purpose over 10 years ago, they naturally wanted to partner with the organization and arrange for travelers to donate items at their 3 local hotels and resorts. The partnership with Pack for a Purpose allows travelers to get involved in the foundation’s efforts to help the community.
Margarita Pilier is a Project Coordinator for the Grupo Puntacana Foundation and has been working for the foundation for many years. She remembers forming the partnership between Grupo Puntacana and Pack for a Purpose, and now she manages all the travelers’ donations that are brought to Punta Cana. Margarita absolutely loves the mission and idea of Pack for a Purpose. She expresses that it is very touching to see travelers think of giving back to the community while they enjoy their vacation, and she believes it adds value to their vacation experiences as well. Margarita is happy just knowing that people took the time and luggage space to spare a thought for her beloved homeland.
One particular donation was so surprising that it has become Margarita’s most memorable experience with Pack for a Purpose, and it is likely just as memorable for the donation’s recipients. Delta Airlines brought a very large donation to Punta Cana. Suitcase upon suitcase filled with school supplies were rolled into the hotel lobby, much to the astonishment of Margarita. Margarita says she will never forget the sight of all those suitcases rolling in or the experience of delivering the school supplies they contained to the local school that Grupo Puntacana helps support.
That unexpected donation was able to help the school immensely, and they were incredibly grateful to receive so many essential supplies for the students. Such large donations from a corporation are far from the norm, but Grupo Puntacana and Margarita find it just as heartwarming to see the generosity of everyday travelers’ contributions. Some donate the requested 5lbs, but the average donation size Margarita sees is closer to 10-15lbs. It is wonderful that so many people who make donations use the convenience of giving through Pack for a Purpose to go above and beyond in giving back to Punta Cana.
Grupo Puntacana truly embodies the spirit of charity by treating each and every Pack for a Purpose donation as special, no matter how big or small it may be. There is a lot of need for school and medical supplies in the area, and any help makes an impact. Margarita always takes the time to deliver the Pack for a Purpose donations to the local school or pediatric clinic that Grupo Puntacana supports as soon as she is able. The Principal of the school that receives many of the donations is always overjoyed to see Margarita and is very grateful for the generosity of travelers and the supplies they donate. Even basic items that many take for granted such as notebooks, pencils, and backpacks make a big difference in the lives of the children in Punta Cana.
Margarita believes that all donations and donators are important, so she takes a picture of the recipients each time she delivers a Pack for a Purpose donation. She emails the pictures to the people who made the donations so that they can see the recipients of their individual contributions. It makes travelers happy to see the pictures, knowing that their donations were received by those in need. One recent visitor to Punta Cana and first time Pack for a Purpose donator, Theresa, posted that after donating a suitcase full of medical supplies for the local clinic, “travel has now taken on a whole new meaning” for her.
It can be an emotional experience for people to see the direct impact their generosity has on someone’s life, and a picture makes a much more lasting impression than never seeing the outcome of their donation. On occasion, Margarita is able to arrange with the hotels or resorts to take travelers into the community to see the area and the recipients of their donations in person, but she says this is rare because it is very difficult to schedule. When the opportunity does arise, it is a wonderful chance for travelers to interact with locals and learn more about Dominican culture in addition to seeing the difference their donations make firsthand.
The Grupo Puntacana Foundation is proud to partner with Pack for a Purpose and help give travelers a way to say thank you and contribute to helping the community in Punta Cana. They feature Pack for a Purpose specifically in the donations portion of their website to make people aware of the opportunity to donate using a small amount of their luggage space. Margarita truly believes in the mission “Small Space, Little Effort, Big Impact” because she has seen how much her community benefits from the donations of all sizes made by travelers. The Grupo Puntacana Foundation continues to support a variety of initiatives to benefit their local community, but their partnership with Pack for a Purpose has helped in their mission to help those in need, as well as spread awareness and the spirit of giving well beyond the Dominican Republic.