The rules change all the time, the needs are great, and funding is always a struggle.
Rev. Baldwin Avendano of Calexico United Methodist Mission stays busy picking up asylum-seekers released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Calexico port-of-entry. He and his case worker team are in constant contact with the City of Calexico and Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities is the primary service provider in the area, but it cannot handle all of the migrants on its own. Since April 2023, Pastor Baldwin’s team has assisted, on average, 15 people each week on the U.S. side, providing emergency food, clothing, and shelter and then transporting them to temporary shelter among our network of churches and houses or to the bus or train station to get them to their sponsors.
As the need ramps up, so does our response. Border Compassion, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), Justice & Compassion Ministries of the California-Pacific United Methodist Church Conference, and other groups pitch in to provide transportation funds. The City of Calexico has turned to our church as a partner in providing services to the increasing number of migrants at its door. Toña and Rafael Rios regularly receive guests at Baldwin Park UMC, as does the North Hills Community Outreach Center, Community UMC of Borrego Springs, Chatsworth West UMC, the Safe Harbors Network, and soon, Echo Park UMC. Our Disaster Relief team regularly delivers hygiene and food kits, clothing, shoes, blankets, diapers, feminine hygiene supplies, backpacks, and more items to the Calexico church. Justice & Compassion Ministries and the South District Union purchased a van to facilitate the endless round trips to San Diego and Los Angeles.
The South District Union released $35,000 to assist with emergency needs. The work we have been able to do with this modest starter budget has been enough to validate our seriousness as a partner and get Pastor Baldwin to a seat at the table. State Senator Steve Padilla’s office is working to coordinate a response and raise additional funds, especially for shelter beds at the border, of which there are very few. The City of Calexico has also secured emergency funds.
We have about two months remaining funding, so we are working hard to secure new funding sources.
We did our best to gain access to the latest round of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding, now called the Shelter & Services Program (SSP). Unfortunately, when the 31-month SSP awards were announced, we found out that all of the funding in our Southern California area went to Catholic Charities. Additionally, the guidelines are very strict about motel vouchers despite the lack of mass shelter beds in the Imperial Valley.
While we wait for funding to come through from the City of Calexico and State Senator Padilla’s office, here are ways that you can help:
- Funds for a meal for a family of 4 = $40
- Funds to cover one night in a motel = $80
- Funds to cover one plane ticket to a sponsor = $400
Send your gifts directly to the local ministry:
Please make checks payable to Calexico United Methodist Church and
specify on the memo line: “for migrant program,” then
mail to 1070 Blair Ave., Calexico, CA 92231.
Rev. Baldwin Avendano
Lead Pastor, Calexico UM Mission
Rev. Paige Eaves
Assistant Director, South District
Rev. Dr. Denyse Barnes
Director of Justice & Compassion EMT
Rev. Dr. Joel Hortiales
Director of Hispanic/Latino Ministries and Border Concerns