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Aug 06, 2014 | Kevin Thompson

Episcopal Community Responds to Humanitarian Needs in McAllen, Texas.

August 6, 2014 Update: The Rev. Erin Jean Warde wrote the following on her Facebook page.

"I'm in McAllen right now with a group from St. Paul's-Waco. I just want to explain our experience to those who care. We have volunteered at Sacred Heart Catholic Ministries, Salvation Army, and Rio Grande Valley Food Bank. So far I have met 3 refugees. One woman and her kids. The food bank seems swamped with donations, so they need a lot of help sorting things to get them organized. However, I just want to explain the reality which is that we are not doing hands on work with refugees. We are helping, but not in the way we expected to. We called border patrol and offered to give them our hygiene kits, feminine hygiene kits, and coloring books to give to the detention centers and they said they did not want them. We called a detention center in Corpus Christi, and they will be coming here next week to get supplies from McAllen so that will be good. We ended up giving all our collected supplies to Salvation Army because they wanted and needed them. We feel stuck on how to help, and we just want to explain to others what volunteering here is like."


August 4, 2014  Responding to the crisis involving children along the border, St. James’, Austin, recently made a five-day trip to McAllen, TX to deliver shoes, diapers, blankets, hooded sweatshirts, juice boxes and other items to the detained kids.


In total, more than $5,000 was donated for the trip that saw 47 people from eight churches travel to volunteer together. “I can’t even estimate how many hundreds of pounds of goods were donated and delivered to McAllen,” said the Rev. Lisa Saunders of St. James’. “Sometimes, I think it is possible that I forget to even dare to imagine the powerful force in my life, which is God at work through community, when making plans.”


The group from St. James’ saw a need in McAllen when the Salvation Army group that was providing chicken soup for the children ran low on money to meet the demand.


“It can take a few months to get a grant or move money around in their budget to buy the seven chickens needed each day for the soup,” Saunders said.  “So we used $1,000 [from donations] to buy chicken and ensure that there would be a nutritious, warm meal waiting for these children when they arrived at Sacred Heart (Roman Catholic Church) after their long journeys.”  Public radio in Austin helped alert area residents about the goods needed and that St. James was planning a trip.


The response to the crisis has been widespread among churches in Texas. The Rev. Tom Day of St. Christopher’s, League City, recently met with that city’s mayor, Tim Paulissen, to discuss a contentious resolution that barred unaccompanied children who had been detained from being housed inside city limits. “The mayor was positive about our concern and desire to help fill some needs in this issue,” Day said.  “We agreed to continue to dialog.”


Groups from St. Paul’s, Waco and many others have made trips to the border, volunteering to help meet the basic needs of the children and show God’s love through compassion and kindness.


The Very Rev. Russ Oechsel is currently planning a trip to the border with Episcopal Relief and Development to assess the situation and ascertain what else could be done to help the plight of the unaccompanied children and families currently being detained.


While the numbers of unaccompanied children arriving at the border and turning themselves into border patrol agents rose to some 57,000 since October 2013, reports indicate the numbers have dropped in recent weeks.  According to a report in Christian Monitor, plans are for children to be placed in smaller shelters throughout the country instead of large repurposed shelters on military bases. Children most typically spend a month in a shelter before being placed with sponsors (often parents or relatives already living in the US) before courts can process their cases, the report said. It can be another year and a half before their case is heard by an immigration judge. 


To read more about how the Episcopal Church is responding to the crisis of children arriving at the Texas/Mexico border, Episcopal Migration Ministries has compiled a list of links and articles, which can be found here