LAS CRUCES – A surge in donations has followed a surge in asylum-seeking migrants in southern New Mexico.
The Border Patrol began dropping off migrants — most men, women and children from Central American countries — directly in Las Cruces on Friday, and calls for donations — money, clothes, toiletries, toys, etc., — soon followed by organizations caring for the migrants before they travel to meet family and sponsors in other parts of the country.
The Gospel Rescue Mission — one of a number of locations where migrants are staying — is managing donations. Most of the donated goods are being kept in a house on the mission’s property, with one room filled from floor to ceiling, and large piles of items overtaking the rest of the house.
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Dr. Brian Ormand, who sits on the mission’s board, said the mission has had a tremendous outpouring from the community, in both donated goods and people volunteering their time.
“We’re filling up a house we’re remodeling, our garages are full, so finding out where to put all this, and then having the people know what we’re needing to sort out, the people who are sorting are (also) doing traffic control and other things, so we have this extra work from the generosity that people have,” Ormand said.
Much of the donated items haven’t been sorted and organized, Ormand said, so if the mission needs something specific, like an extra pop-up shelter, they’ll buy one at store.
That’s where monetary donations come in handy. Also, money is used to help pay for things such as prescription medication.
“If an immigrant needs like a prescription in the middle of the night, we have to go get it, and we have to pony up the money, and some medicines aren’t cheap if you don’t have any insurance, but if they need an antibiotic, we get it for them if we have the resources,” he said.
Las Cruces resident Sandra Beltran donated bottled water and other goods Monday.
“They’re human people in need and we have to take care of one another, and that’s all there is too it, no matter what our beliefs are, no matter of anything, they just are people in need,” she said, explaining that the issue is not a political one for her.
Belltran said her ex husband’s family is from Cuba, and had to flee in the 1960’s.
“I feel like I have some very personal experience with that, and it just breaks my heart to think that people have to flee their homes looking for safety, things that we should all be guaranteed,” she said.
Henry Young, executive director and chaplain at Gospel Rescue Mission, said the past few days have been hectic, but rewarding.
“We have seen what people can do under conditions that are not always conducive to a fun time. They (volunteers) have been really doing a lot of work, and seem to be enjoying it,” he said.
The mission had plenty of volunteers throughout the weekend, but now people are back at work. The mission is in need of people who can volunteer with the migrants on a longer term basis.
Still, people signed up to volunteer on Monday, including Karen Escobedo and Suzanne Lucero.
Both said seeing the migrants in person helps them appreciate what they have.
“We take life for granted. We take the little things we do have for granted, honestly, you know, especially nowadays, everything is taken for granted. It’ll make you appreciate what you do have,” Lucero said.
At the mission
Throughout the morning at Gospel Rescue Mission, a stream of vehicles came and went as Las Cruces residents dropped off donations, or signed up to volunteer. At the same time, the mission’s backyard was alive with activity. A migrant woman wearing a lavender shirt sitting with children next to a tree, and a man wearing a chartreuse shirt both smiled and waved to passerby. Children kicked around a soccer ball and said a quick “hola” to the passerby before continuing their game.
Gospel Rescue Mission has had to dispel rumors, even among long-time donors to the shelter, that homeless people were being displaced to provide housing to migrants. Migrants are being housed on temporary cots in the facility’s cafeteria apart from the shelter’s normal population.
Young said some long-time donors had threatened to stop donating based on those rumors.
“That was entirely false,” he said. “We have not utilized any of space that’s normally used for the homeless. We have not kicked anybody out or asked them to leave.”
On Monday, Border Patrol dropped off an additional 170 migrants at the mission.
The Gospel Rescue Mission is continuing to accept donations, especially everyday items such as toilet paper, paper towels, men’s razors, combs and brushes, all sizes of hand sanitizers, feminine hygiene products, paper plates, cups, bowls, plastic cutlery and large trash bags.
Donations of goods can be dropped off at the mission, 1050 W Amador Ave., each day, while monetary donations can be made by clicking the donate button at http://www.lcgrm.org/donations/.
Bethany Freudenthal can be reached at email@example.com, 575-541-5449 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter.
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