Peace Corps Panama Friends was started in a bar (where else?) in Washington, DC, in 1986, during the celebration of the Peace Corps’ 25th anniversary. Mike Nagle and Steve Spangler passed around bar napkins and asked everyone to write their addresses and phone numbers. (There were no email addresses then.)
The idea for a Peace Corps Panama alumni group began earlier, during planning for the Peace Corps’ 25th Anniversary in 1986. Steve Spangler called the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, the precursor of the National Peace Corps Association, and asked, “Who is planning activities for Panama?” They responded, “You are. What’s your name and address?”
For nearly three decades our leadership was a group of seven or eight folks located mostly in the D.C. area, although we frequently invited folks from around the country to assume leadership roles. The core leadership included Steve Spangler, Jerry Lutes, Bonnie Birker, Bob Brown, Mike Nagel, Tony Masso and Bud Keith. PCPF member Alan Ells, an attorney in Michigan, secured our incorporation there and obtained our 501(C)3 status. Ron Miller in California helped establish our database of names and addresses.
During the first fifteen years or so, PCPF activities were largely concerned with annual or semiannual reunions and fund raising for worthwhile projects in Panama. PCPF Reunions were held in Boulder, Co, 1988; Kent State University, 1989; Eugene, Oregon, 1990; Washington, DC in 1991, 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2011; San Diego, 1997, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1999; Chicago in 2004; and twice in Panama, 2008 and 2013.
Support for Panama and Volunteers
In 1991, Peace Corps returned to Panama and our membership and leadership focus shifted to supporting volunteers in service in Panama. Our fund-raising activities has brought in more than $25,000 to benefit environmental protection in Panama. Since 2004, PCPF has sold the very popular Peace Corps Panama Calendars which are designed and printed in Panama by current volunteers with photos submitted by fellow volunteers.
We published two hardcopy PCPF Directories of our members.The first on October 23, 1987 listed the names of 606 Peace Corps volunteers and staff who served in Panama during the years 1963 to 1971. It was prepared by 315 former volunteers and staff who provided information for themselves and others. The second was in July 1991 and included biographical information provided by 236 PCPF members.
El Bochinche. In 1994 PCPF member Dave Hines in Woodstock, Illinois, began publishing “El Bochinche, the PCPF newsletter”. In 2005, El Bochinche was converted to a quarterly online newsletter distributed via email.
PCPF Website. In the late 1990s, PCPF moved into the Internet age with its website: www.panamapcv.net.
Facebook. In 2009, El Bochinche Editor Alicia Añino, created a Facebook page for PCPF.