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'Solidarity, not charity': BWC fundraising campaign aids more migrants

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The Hispanic/Latino Ministries of the Baltimore-Washington Conference has launched a campaign to raise $45,000 to assist migrants being bussed to Washington, D.C.

Despite the Conference having already raised $50,000, needs continue to be significant for the ministry. The Rev. Emma Escobar said that over 1,000 families have settled in the D.C. region since April of 2022. The Baltimore-Washington Conference continues to welcome the new neighbors with radical hospitality and solidarity.

The Washington migrant family shelters stopped accepting new families in April 2023, which means women and children are being put out in the streets with many living in the cars of families in the shelters, Esocbar said. Washington officials began evicting families from the shelters in the fall with little to no planning or support.

“Over time, our work has shifted from welcoming buses, to resettlement, to a more resource-intensive effort, which is why we are seeking to raise $45,000 to help sustain our work into the coming year,” Escobar said.

Escobar emphasized the fundraising campaign and the church’s efforts are about “solidarity, not charity.” The Conference has worked closely with Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid (MSMA), which comprises community organizations and hundreds of individual volunteers committed to supporting migrants arriving in the region.

Groups include Peace House DC, Beloved Community Incubator, East of the River Mutual Aid, and Sanctuary DMV. Funds raised will focus on supporting two critical ministry efforts: supporting resettlement work for families and a tienda — or store.

The Conference helps hundreds of new migrant families furnish their homes — and pay for transitional housing hosted by Emory Beacon of Light at Emory United Methodist Church.

At Capitol Hill United Methodist Church, efforts have transitioned from welcoming migrants directly after being dropped at Union Station to providing them resources through its tienda. The free store allows families to access gently used clothes, coats and shoes, along with new underwear, socks and hygiene products.

The Rev. Stephanie Vader, the senior pastor at Capitol Hill UMC, said the fundraising campaign will provide some essential needs that require purchases, rather than donations

“We don’t give people used underwear,” Vader said. “We spend thousands and thousands of dollars on underwear. And people only get a certain amount [of items] because we’re serving 150 people each week.”

The tienda is open three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Vader said the ministry serves around 150 people each week.

“I'm glad to be a part of a ministry when they finally arrive here to say, ‘you're welcome here and we will try to help you out, as you try to get established,’” Arlene Renshaw, a lay volunteer, said.

A person’s donation will allow the ministries to provide the following:

  • $50 = a phone, an important lifeline
  • $100 = jacket + backpack at the free store
  • $500 = wrap-around perinatal support for 1 expecting mother
  • $1000 = furnishes a home including moving costs
  • $3000 = 1 month of rent in MSMA’s transitional housing

Since the start of the bussing campaign by Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott, some 80,000 migrants have been bussed to Democratic-led cities since last year, from Chicago to New York City to Denver. In recent days, mayors have instituted policies that require buses to notify local governments of their impending arrival.

With the hundreds of migrants still being bussed into the area, Vader said she learned just how important it was for ministries to be flexible, especially in the early days of the efforts. Those lessons still influence her ministry.

“I think institutions are concerned about this or that, and there’s good reason for that,” Vader said. “The fact of the matter is that's not going to work in this situation. If that's what you're going to try to get in a row, you're never gonna be able to help these people.”

“To me, it's also like that's an act of faith…You say yes, and you figure it out the best you can," she added. "It's not perfect. It never is. It's a hot mess. But the alternative is leaving people with nothing."