Supply drive underway to aid migrants

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Raul Alonzo Jr./ISLAND WAVES – Alfred Williams (left), a steward at Brooks African Methodist Episcopal Worship Center, lifts a packet of canned food into a U-Haul bound for McAllen’s Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center Thursday, Sept. 26. The donations will be going to the migrants assisted by the center, as well as those waiting out their asylum claims across the border.

On their first trip to the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, S. Diane Gudmanson and Carol Lowe were ready to lend a hand with whatever the staff needed help with.

“We knew we wanted to do something,” said Gudmanson, “but we didn’t know what we wanted to do.”

As it turned out, what the center needed most was supplies.

At the time of their visit in July of this year, Gudmanson said the shelter had been processing 1000 to 1200 people a day — migrants released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody but with little at their disposal.

According to the Monitor, since its inception in 2014, the center has seen thousands of migrants pass through their doors, having made their journey north with little means but finding food, shelter and clothing within the center’s walls. For those who hope to continue onto the next leg of their journey, such as reuniting with family in the U.S. while they await a decision on their cases in the immigration courts, such aid can be crucial.

It is with this in mind that Gudmanson and Lowe have launched a supply drive in Corpus Christi, which started on Sept. 15 and is running to Oct. 20. In its early stages, the two were mostly asking for monetary donations. As the end date draws closer, they will begin accepting donations of supplies needed by the center: liquid soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, underwear, socks, shoelaces, canned goods, Styrofoam plates, spoons and snack foods like animal crackers or peanut butter crackers.

Upon the conclusion of the drive, the two will deliver the supplies to the center. They have successfully loaded a U-Haul with food donations secured through the Brooks African Methodist Episcopal Worship Center, of which Lowe is a member. The supplies were obtained through the food bank, and Lowe and other church members loaded up on Sept. 26, to drive them down the following day.

Charles White, a steward at Brooks African Methodist Episcopal Worship Center, backs a cart of canned goods out of the center while loading up the U-Haul.

“Hearing about people being mistreated when they’re coming to our country and thinking that our country stands up for liberty and justice and equality, really upset me,” said Lowe. “And this is a small amount that we can do to help people feel that we are not a country that hurts people because they’re coming here, that we are a country that loves people.”

For Alfred Williams, one of the stewards at Brooks AME, the motivation to help with the drive came naturally from the moral teachings the congregation follows.

“It’s a good cause,” Williams said. “You hate to see anybody that needs food and don’t have it, especially kids. We see what’s going on down there, how people are being treated, and it’s not Christianlike to see stuff like that go on and don’t try and make a difference.

“So, we can’t profess to follow Christ and see a brother or sister in need and then we look the other way. We have to live the life we profess to be. We follow the Christ. This is what Christ would want us to do: feed the hungry, tend to the needy. So this is what we’re all about.”

The supplies won’t just be going towards helping migrants on the U.S. side of the border at the Respite Center, either, says drive volunteer Sue Corey. Catholic Social Services, who runs the Respite Center, will also provide some of the supplies to a group of nuns working at a shelter across the border where many migrants have remained stranded since the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) by the Trump Administration in January.

According to Reuters, the policy has forced tens of thousands to wait out their court date for asylum claims in Mexico.

“I think it’s real important that people understand that everything is so fluid and so changing,” Corey said. “When they (Gudmanson and Lowe) went the first time, there were people coming through Catholic Social Services and getting on buses and going to shelters and all that kind of stuff, and there were lots of people in the facilities in the United States. All of that is so fluid and so rapidly changing now that the administration has prohibited people from coming across and to seek asylum. They have to wait in Mexico, and they’re at risk in Mexico.”

The current supply drive won’t be the last, according to Lowe. There are already plans for another drive later in December. With such efforts, Lowe hopes others will begin to feel more compelled to get involved.

“I think people just don’t know what they can do to help,” said Lowe, “and we all feel, at least I feel, helpless when I don’t know what to do. So this is one small token of our gratitude for people that are coming to our country, and our willingness to be open to them.”

Those wishing to donate to the supply drive can reach out to Gudmanson at (361) 244-4043, or Lowe at (361) 687-4792. Supplies can also be dropped off at the Brooks AME Worship Center at 2101 N. Port Avenue on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., but should call Lowe first to confirm someone will be there. Checks should be made out to Catholic Social Services.