On any given day, Anne Garcia travels to various farms in Sandusky County, Ohio, to meet migrant workers. She speaks their language – Spanish. They’ve come to trust her and share their most vulnerable needs, just to survive. She listens, leaves and returns to the site with a basket of necessities. Sometimes, she travels with her husband, Rogileo.
Each year, migrant workers, contracted with local farms, arrive to northeast Ohio to work with limited resources. These Spanish-speaking individuals earn money to support their families back home. Arriving from Mexico, Honduras, California and Texas, they work on farms that produce items that we purchase from our grocery stores to feed our families.
Often seven days a week, the migrant worker’s day begins at sunrise and ends at sundown. After a long day, these men, women and children return to living quarters with no climate control, warm blankets or soft pillows. The contracted hourly wage is often reduced by 50% after the crew leader takes their share for “amenities,” like gas for transportation. 1 peso is equivalent to a U.S. nickel.
Garcia directs the Bridge of Hope Free Food Pantry, a ministry partner of Living In Faith Together, which serve their Spanish-speaking neighbors. LIFT, an ecumenical group of seven churches, includes Hayes Memorial United Methodist Church and Camino De Vida (Way of Life) in the Maumee Watershed District. Mary Carmen Padilla and her husband Leo are pastors of Camino De Vida.
“Last year,” Garcia said, “we served 112 adults, 25 children and 16 families at five camps. These migrants are contracted workers with an H-2A visa” that allows a foreign national worker into the U.S. for temporary agricultural jobs.
During Lent, Bridge of Hope is preparing to serve the migrants arriving in April, the beginning of the farming season. Their goal is to prepare a “welcoming basket” for each person or family as they arrive.
This laundry basket, contains necessities such as a light jacket, a box fan, a first-aid kit, toilet paper, a light raincoat, a baseball cap with neck covering, a water thermos, garden gloves, rubber shoe coverings and a bandana. The baskets also include a Bible and a flyer invitation to worship and Bible study at Camino de Vida. One basket is valued at $400. The team sees this as a Lenten project for churches and ministries throughout West Ohio.
Padilla shared a testimony from one basket recipient who began to watch the Bible study and worship services online. Although he didn’t worship in person, he was a part of the Camino community. He texted Padilla often to ask for prayer. One day, he requested prayer as he and his family traveled back to Mexico. Once he reached home, he called and thanked Padilla for the kindness shown through the ministry and the basket while they were in Ohio.
Interested churches can sponsor a basket or donate items on the list. Monetary donations are also accepted. For information, please contact Anne Garcia at Bridge of Hope (Puente De Esperanza) Food Pantry at 419-371-0463.
Click here for items for a "Welcoming Basket"
Written by Amy Graham, Communications Specialist