Care packages: Community volunteers, donations head to Deming

Written by on June 1, 2019
Lillian Connelly, Samantha Armstrong, Juniper Armstrong, Ariana Saludares and another volunteer help with donations at the Southwestern New Mexico State Fairgrounds in Deming on Friday. (Press Staff Photo by  C.P. Thompson)

Lillian Connelly, Samantha Armstrong, Juniper Armstrong, Ariana Saludares and another volunteer help with donations at the Southwestern New Mexico State Fairgrounds in Deming on Friday.
(Press Staff Photo by
C.P. Thompson)

Janet Shepard was handing out chocolate cookies, while Lillian Connelly and her two daughters distributed stuffed animals Friday morning to migrants who are being held at the Southwestern New Mexico State Fairgrounds in Deming.

But cookies and toys are just a small amount of what Grant County has provided to those at the fairgrounds since they arrived in Deming a couple of weeks ago. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City has been accepting donations and coordinating drivers to Deming. 

“We found out about the whole Deming situation through Ariana [Saludares],” said Barbara Gabioud, board chair of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City. “One of the biggest components of being a Unitarian Universalist has to deal with social justice issues.”

Even before the Deming situation, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City held fundraisers and concerts, and those proceeds went to other places that are in a similar circumstance as Luna County. 

Since the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City opened their doors as a donation drop-off spot, the response has been overwhelming.

“It has been amazing to me,” Gabioud said. “I have had so many people stop by while taking in donations and say, ‘We are on our way down there. Do you need people?’”

Donations were welcomed on Thursday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City. There, between 15 and 20 people brought supplies, said members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City. Kathleen Froese, a Silver City resident, brought baby pajamas, diapers, Pedialyte, men’s and women’s underwear, toy cars and a soccer ball.

“I think we are part of the community — the human community,” she said. 

Sue Schiowitz donated food, combs, socks, toothpaste, toilet paper, backpacks and coats.

“It’s something you should do as a human — as a person,” she said. “I can’t imagine not doing it.”

Carol Morrison, Mike Sheffer and Karen Murphy, who are members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City, helped separate the supplies — saving some for another time, while the rest was placed into vehicles for transport. Connelly’s van was one of those vehicles.

“I have had struggles or hard times in my life, and people have helped me along the way,” Connelly said. “I think it is important to give back and help people who are struggling.”

She also used to live in Columbus and worked with kids from Mexico. 

“Having kids there pulled at my heart too a little bit,” she said.

Friday’s trip made it Connelly’s third time taking supplies to Luna County. It was her first time at the fairgrounds. She also brought along her two daughters, Samantha and Juniper Armstrong. As the three entered the fairgrounds, they were greeted by Chris Brice, Luna County interim assistant manager and lead coordinator of the shelters.

He told the Daily Press on Thursday that he got a text from Deming’s undersheriff May 11 that said the Border Patrol would start releasing migrants into the area. The first group — around 125 — came the following day. Since then, around 200 to 250 people have come each day. At one time, there were up to 700 people. 

“We then opened up a World War II airport hangar which isn’t far from the fairgrounds,” Brice said. 

Saludares, who was born in Silver City and now lives in Deming, was on hand at the fairgrounds. She helps with the volunteer coordination. Connelly put on a green vest and headed into a building that was filled with cots. Connelly and her daughters approached every child and handed a stuffed animal or small ball to them. When the toys were gone, the Connelly family went through a box of children’s shoes that were donated by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City and had the people try on different sizes of shoes. 

“I am proud of the community for pulling together,” Connelly said before she left the fairgrounds. 

The next time she comes up, which may be Sunday, she might bring her husband, who knows Spanish. 

Janet and her husband, Clint Shepard, who live in San Lorenzo, walked around the building with a container filled with chocolate cookies. Fluent in Spanish, Janet talked to those there and asked them questions. The two also brought a map of the Guatemala and Honduras areas, which was taped onto a window. The people there came up and explained where they were from.

“It was incredible,” Janet said. “I was so impressed with what they are doing in Deming and how they embraced this. The majority of the people in that room where indigenous from the mountains of Guatemala. The men were friendly. My husband wants to talk to the men about farming.”

Janet “got a lot of smiles” thanks to the cookies. 

Jeanie McLerie and Ken Keppeler, known as Bayou Seco, also showed up to the fairgrounds to play music, according to Janet. 

At the fairgrounds, the migrants get to show off their artistic skills because of a station that has art utensils. Silver City resident Ann Lowe, and others, made the trip to Deming on Wednesday and brought art supplies from Leyba and Ingalls Arts. 

“I wanted to go down to let people know that people in this country welcome them and have compassion for what they have gone through,” she said. 

Lowe plans to continue going to Luna County and said there are different ways people can help.

“They are very kind, gentle, wonderful people,” she said. 

Saludares agreed that any type of help is welcome. Doctors from Silver City have even seen people. 

For “monetary donations,” Saludares recommended heading to www.sherman communityfoundation.org. The website also displays a list that shows current donation needs. The list is updated several times a week. The website states “as of May 29, 2019,  only clothing for children zero to 3 years of age is requested.” 

Drop-off locations in Deming are the First Baptist Church, 10 a.m. to noon and 2-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; St. Ann’s Catholic Church, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday; CitiLife Church, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays; Deming First Assembly of God, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday; Casa de Dio, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends; Bethel Baptist Church, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays; and First United Methodist Church, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 

The website also has a link to a volunteer form, which states people can help with scheduling transportation, sorting donations, preparing or distributing food and passing out items.

Gabioud sends updated donations through email, and people can email bgabioud@gmail.com to be on that list. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Silver City, 3845 N. Swan St., accepts donations from 3:30-4 p.m. Thursdays and 9:15-9:45 a.m. Sundays. 

Gabioud said that businesses have also donated. Ultra Health provided knapsacks, the Silver City Food Co-op gave beans, Quality Inn provided toiletries, Walmart donated underwear, and McDonald’s gave cups. The Silver City Gospel Mission provided baby clothing. 

C.P. Thompson may be reached at cp@scdaily press.com.

 

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