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Thursday , February 21 2019
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Tag Archives: ylm

Video+Story: Fight Against Hunger Continues, Even During Summer Vacation

I want to share a thought with you. It’s not a warm and fuzzy thought. No. This is the reality of some families within our community.

School is out. Summer vacation is upon us, and kids are running wild. They are playing, dreaming, hoping the summer would last forever. They are also working up an appetite.

The school districts within El Paso provide breakfast and lunch to many kids who would otherwise not have anything to eat. Families depend on these meals, as meager as they are, to help sustain their children. Now that summer is here; they will be missing meals. That shouldn’t happen at all.

Yes, some schools do provide meals throughout the summer. Not all of them, but some of them. For some families, transportation becomes a problem. Lack of transportation can be enough to keep a child from eating. Again, that shouldn’t happen.

Throughout El Paso, there are groups – such as Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care – who provide meals, and food baskets to individuals and families in need. That need is great.

Each Saturday, YLM provides upwards of 300 food baskets to families and individuals in need. Then Monday to Friday there are those who visit the Mission’s hot meal program to eat what may very well be the only meal they have for the day.

Being able to eat, putting food on the table, is a basic human right. It should not be a privilege that can be snatched away like food stamps. We’ve seen the food stamp program be gutted to balance governmental budgets, but that is hurting people, hurting families and children.

That’s where YLM steps in to fill that ever-widening gap.  The way Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care obtains food for distribution is twofold.

The first source of food comes from the El Pasoans Fight Hunger food bank. Each week YLM spends about $200 to purchase food that can be distributed to those in need. The next source is donations of food items. On Friday, if one were to come by the Mission, you would see volunteers working very hard sorting food, and creating the boxes for distribution.

That’s the weekly food giveaway.

Then, Monday to Friday, you have the hot meal program. The food for this is also purchased by the Mission, with occasional donations coming in. The kitchen is open to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. The hot meal program does provide lunch, starting at 11:30, for a very nominal price – only $1.50 a plate.

What monies do come from sales are put right back into the program to help feed those who cannot afford to eat.

In the case of those who simply do not have the money to spare, they still eat. The YLM office provides them with a voucher so that they too can have something for the day.

Now, imagine all of this goes away. Where will those people get that one hot meal? With school being out, the numbers begin to swell. How will they be provided for?

What about the individuals and families who come on Saturday mornings for the food boxes? It is a vital part of their pantry at home. What would happen if they were unable to obtain the extra food to help stretch out what they may already have? How many families, how many children would be affected?

The food programs are not the only thing going at YLM. Each year they distribute backpacks and school supplies to children going back to school. There is the Christmas toy drive. There is also the free medical care they host each Saturday. (Yes, FREE medical care provided by RotoCare.) The clinic is free to anyone and everyone. It is open Saturdays. Doors open at 9 am.

So, how can you help?

You can give the Mission a call at 915-858-2588. Or, if you are in El Paso, you can bring your donations to them at 301 S Schutz Drive, off Alameda. You can also find Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care on Facebook or online.

If you would like to give a cash contribution, you can do that as well. You can click here and select the food program, or any other of their other programs, to support. The donation will be tax deductible.

Let’s remember that El Paso is one community. When one person suffers, we all suffer. You never know, the person you may be helping by supporting YLM just may be a neighbor, coworker, or the children you see playing down the street.

Video+Gallery+Story: Minnesota Teens Volunteer to Build Homes in Juarez

Late last year, a busload of teenagers pulled into Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care (YLM), in El Paso’s Lower Valley. More than a few of the kids had a look of expectant wonder on their faces as they had made this trip before. Others were beginning to wonder what they had signed up for.

Yet, here they were, ready to begin a trip that would help shape their futures.

I’ve previously written that I am the type of guy that tends to view everything through a jaundiced eye. With all I’ve been through, it’s hard not to. That’s why, when I see something positive, I must write about it. When that story also involves a group of fifty teenagers spending their Christmas vacation building homes in Juarez, I really must write about it.

Imagine, a group of kids coming from Mayer, Minnesota, to build homes for people they don’t even know, in a country, most of them have never visited before. Then, learning that the youngest person on the trip is thirteen-years-old, and you have something you take notice of.

Mayer Lutheran High School is a school within the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod. At the core of their teachings and beliefs is service to others. The same is true of YLM. For over thirty years YLM has been striving to change lives- Changing Lives Through Simple Acts of Kindness, is their motto.

I’m not going to tell the story of the kids who came down to build these homes; it’s better to hear it from them directly. You can watch the video I made with them here above.  The story I am going to share with you is quite different. The story I want to share with you is about
need, about unity and about how it shouldn’t matter where one is from, or where one decided to help.

Over the last year, I have seen our country become polarized. Simply put there are two schools of thought. You either agree with the mainstream view, or you are labeled as a leftist, close-minded, or a moron.

It seems you must agree with everything the current administration preaches, or you will simply be an outsider looking in.

When I was considering this article, in early January, I spoke to several individuals about the work YLM is doing, and more specifically, the homes these kids are building in Juarez.

The most common refrain was that they should be working over here, in the United States. So, I spoke to Dave Lane, one of the teachers on this trip to El Paso, and Juarez.

“I had a lady, in one of our fundraising events, for this, tell me that specifically.” said Dave Lane, “I said, I don’t think it’s either-or, I think it’s both-and. Of course, people need to be helping people in our country, but who’s going to help those people in Anapra?”

As Dave said, he doesn’t see any agencies in Juarez working to help families in need. Don’t get me wrong; there are people who do help. But how far can their limited resources go?

That’s why it’s important that individuals such as Dave Lane, and his group of kids come down to help families in need.

Now, imagine a world where Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care or Mayer Lutheran High School didn’t exist. Imagine those individuals who have received home, home extensions, food baskets, or the free medical care that is hosted on their Lower Valley campus. Where would those people, those families be?

Were it not for those groups, there would be 3,000 families, on both sides of the border, who would possibly be homeless, or worse. There would be families who would not be able to make their limited supply of groceries last between paychecks were it not for the food baskets provided by YLM to families in need.

Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care is one of a limited number of groups reaching out and serving those in need. Regardless of religion, race, or political leanings, YLM – and others – exist to help.

This is what we need to remember, to serve others.

Rabbi Shalom of Karlin, in the 18th Century, said “If you want to raise a person from mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching a helping hand down to the person. You must go all the way down yourself, down into the mud and filth. Then take hold of the person with strong hands and pull the person yourself out into the light.”

Any group that is willing to get down into the “mud” and help, they are worthy of our help and support.

“G-d does not need our good works,” Martin Luther, Father of the Reformation said, “but our neighbor does.” (Wingren, Luther on Vocation, 10).

So, I want to challenge you; I want to know where you are. Are you sitting there, on the sidelines, waiting for someone to help? Or, are you willing to help? That’s where I challenge you, to get up, get out and help.

Take a moment this week to speak to your Rabbi, your pastor, your parish priest. As them how you, as a community of faith, can help those who are hungry, are homeless, who are sick. Ask what can be done, and where to begin. You may be surprised as they just might be waiting for you to get the ball rolling.

Hillel the Elder said, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

My answer to Hillel? It is us; it is now.

Photos provided by Mayer Lutheran High School.

Gallery+Story: YLM Helps Spread Christmas Cheer

Except for a Grinch here and there, the Holiday Season seems to bring the best out in most people. People tend to smile more, become a bit more caring about the welfare of strangers and generally show good will towards all.

Last week I shared a message from Pastor Charles Nieman, as well as photos from their annual Christmas distribution. This week I visited Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care for their annual Christmas giving event.

For the last thirty years, YLM has strived to meet the needs of those in their community who lack food, medical care, clothing and the necessities of life. On Saturday, they gave back on a much larger scale.

For weeks, both staff members and volunteers of YLM have been preparing to provide 500 food baskets and blankets, a minimum of 800 toys, as well as 600 coats.

Everything that was distributed Saturday, came from donations within the community, as well as Orphan Grain Train and Operation Noel who provided coats.

“It’s important,” said Pastor Karl Heimer, “that we help meet not only their spiritual needs but material needs as well. It gives them comfort and joy, a reason to be happy.”

Next year, YLM will be providing more toys, coats, blankets for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. But their giving is not limited to only those two days.

Each Saturday YLM provides food baskets for families who need help making ends meet. Registration is Saturday starting at 8:30 a.m. and distribution starts at 10 a.m. Also, on Saturdays, they host RotoCare.

RotoCare is a free medical clinic hosted by YLM, the Rotary Club of El Paso and staffed by doctors from Texas Tech. Then, Monday thru Friday, YLM provides a hot lunch to anyone in need. Lunch starts at  11:30 a.m. and ends when the food is gone.

For more information, you can call the church at 915-858- 2588. You can also visit them online.

NOTE: Steven Cottingham is a volunteer at Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care as well as host of their weekly radio show Changing Lives Through Simple Acts of Kindness

Ysleta Lutheran Mission Looks to Community for Help

There have been times that we have all needed a helping hand. Sometimes we can look to a member of our family or a close friend. Other times, we need to seek the help of our church or even a government agency.

In the Lower Valley, Ysleta Lutheran Mission (YLM) Human Care is the place you can go for help. YLM can help you with a change of clothes. There’s the hot meal program that runs Monday through Friday. On Saturday you can go and pick up a food basket
that will help stretch what already have in your kitchen.

They even host the Rotary Clubs free medical Clinic, RotoCare, where you can receive medical treatment without cost.

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of individuals have availed themselves of the help provided by YLM. Now, YLM needs the help of the communities they serve.

Robert has visited Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care, from time to time, for a hot meal. “I don’t have the money sometimes to eat. They give a good lunch.” “The food baskets help,” says Monica*. “I work two jobs and have the three kids…sometimes there just isn’t enough to make it from check to check.”

Tony, who is recovering from an eye operation, comes almost every day for lunch.

“It helps a lot,” he said. “If they didn’t offer lunch, I don’t know what I would do.” Alex and Lupe have been visiting YLM for about four months. They come for clothes, a hot meal, and just a place to relax from a hard day.

“Thank goodness for this place,” Alex said. “If it wasn’t for this place it would be harder for us.” Alex and Lupe have been looking for work, and YLM helps them keep their heads just above water.

“I’ve been involved with programs in this community,” says Dr. Karl Heimer, “since the end of 1982.”

Dr. Heimer said that the Mission serves the community as a way of visibly showing God’s Love. “He, God, has commanded us to serve Him, love Him, and to love our neighbor, and that’s what we are doing.”

Elvira Viramontes is the program director for Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care, and she works directly with the individuals who come in seeking assistance.

“We distribute over two-hundred- plus food baskets per week,” says Elvira. “Counting each member of the family who receives a basket, over the last three months, we have directly assisted over twenty-thousand people.”

In addition to the food baskets, there are between sixty to seventy people who receive a free hot meal per week.

“The majority, if not all of our recipients,” Elvira said, “depend on the weekly distribution that we have here.” She also said that what is received complements the food these families can buy, and help stretch what they already have.

“If we are not open, if we are not here, a lot of people would suffer,” she said.

“I want you to know that more than 90% of every dollar given to YLM goes to helping people in need,” shared Dr. Heimer. “This year we have received more non-cash donations than ever before.”

“We are grateful for these gifts,” says Dr. Heimer. “But it has left us with the limited financial capability to adequately distribute them to the underserved on both sides of the border.”

The non-cash donations do help. YLM provides coats during the winter to children in need. There are also the toys they give at Christmas for families that otherwise would not have them. School supplies and backpacks are given at the start of the school year for families in need.

Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care is a much-needed resource that serves a community in need. What would happen if they closed? What would happen if some of the programs were scaled back?

“A couple of days last week,” begins Dr. Heimer, “we were only able to serve beans and noodles in our hot meal program. We simply didn’t have meat, or the ability to purchase any. No one wants to see this, or any other program we have end.”

Standing outside, looking at the clouds this Wednesday morning, I spoke with Ricardo.

“If they [YLM] were to close,” he said, “I got no idea where I would go.” Ricardo says he lost his job about three weeks ago and is still looking. He has been able to find a few day jobs that helped feed his family, but for himself, he depends on the hot meal program.

“I come with my wife on Saturday for food boxes. But during the week, I only eat here.  I won’t go home while they are eating dinner, I stay out looking for work.”

There are several ways you can help YLM continue their mission to serve the community. You can visit their website and contribute online. You may also visit them in person at 301 South Schutz, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, or call at 915-858- 2588

“I am appealing to you,” says Dr. Heimer, “To open your heart and help us to serve more people than ever by making a cash donation. Would you contribute a donation today toward our “greatest need?”

*Some names have been changed at the request of interviewees

Note: Steven Cottingham volunteers his time with Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care, and is host of their weekly radio program, “Changing Lives Through Simple Acts of Kindness.”

YLM, Community Groups Gather in Ysleta to Distribute Food, School Supplies and More

“It’s just me and the kids,” said Maria. “I work, but not making much, this church helps me and helps everyone who comes.” Maria is talking about Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care in El Paso’s Lower Valley.

“We come for school things,” said Ms. Cortez. “Even the Walmart still charges so much. The school wants them to have so much. Without these [backpacks and basic school supplies] they would have nothing this year.”

Once a year YLM holds an event where they distribute backpacks, school supplies, and basic hygiene kits to school-age children.

“Twice a month we come for the food,” said an older lady who asked I not use her name. “When we come for the school items we are also blessed with a larger food basket.”

This year, as in prior years, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger has given extra-large food baskets to those who come. Each Saturday, YLM provides a basic food basket to those who come. “This helps make what we have last,” said Maria.

“What’s great about this,” said Terry Wyatt, of El Pasoan’s Fighting Hunger, “we’re feeding peoples bodies, and we’re feeding people’s minds. We’re getting children ready to learn by making sure they’re eating, and by YLM giving them school supplies. All year long, this community – YLM – works to feed the people in this area. It is one of our largest food pantries.”

The crowds began to the queue up as early as 7 am to register for the food distribution. At 8:30 other agencies began to arrive and set up.

“We are here to help give back to the community,” said Monica Esparza, with Molina Healthcare.

“We’ve helped by donating school supplies, and helping others with information about healthcareoptions and sign-ups.” Her booth was seeing a steady flow of individuals all throughout the morning.

Other organizations who came include Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Project Vida, the UTEP Public Health Department, Safe Link, and more.

“I come to the free medical clinic,” said Raul. YLM hosts Texas Tech and the RotoCare Clinic each Saturday. It’s a free medical clinic from 9 a.m. to noon. “If not for these people I would not be seeing a doctor. I don’t have money, so this is good.”

“We have this event each year,” said Elvira Viramontes, the program manager at Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care. “It is something the community needs. We work to meet their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs.”

Elvira did want to point out that YLM will be giving out winter coats later this year. Registration for that program is on November 1 st . “You must be registered,” she said, “to be given a coat.”

If you would like to know more or help with food or other material items you no longer need, give them a call at 915-858- 2588 or visit them online.

North Texas Teens Spend Summer Rebuilding, Upgrading El Pasoan’s Home

From Plano to El Paso, in the humidity and heat, one extended family lends a hand to another.

It all started when Ms. Ramos had a family move in with her; her daughter and two children needed a place to say, and Ms. Ramos was not going to turn them away.

She opened her doors to them and found a way to make it work for all of them.

The mobile home that Ms. Ramos has is fairly small and in bad repair. Two small rooms at either end of the place, no air conditioning, and the floors are nothing but plywood. The restroom leaves much to be desired.

Much in the same way that Ms. Ramos gathered her family, a group of dedicated teens, brought to the worksite by the Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care (YLM) project worked to make sure her house became a home.

So how did it start, this group of teenagers coming from Messiah Lutheran Church in Plano, Texas, to work on this one home?

YLM has been working with groups who want to serve our community since the mid-1980’s. One of the things Rev. Dr. Karl Heimer did when he came to Ysleta was to conduct a survey of the area to see what was needed.

Over time, the services YLM offers has grown, but hosting servant events, groups of people that want to build, or meet the medical needs of others, has been a staple of the Mission shortly after it was founded.

There are many things that go into determining who they will serve, what home they will either work on or build from the ground up. The family must be in genuine need, without resources to do the work themselves.

Once they have individuals identified who could benefit from the program, Alonso Gonzalez, the servant event director, then goes out and makes home visits. He looks at the state of the home, assesses the need, and will determine if the groups that are coming are then able to make the additions or build a home if they don’t already have one.

It’s hard work, building homes in our summer weather. The last group I followed, a group of adults that built a home in Juarez, had better weather. These kids, they worked hard in the heat and humidity we’ve had the past week.

Watching these guys give up part of their summer to work on the home of a total stranger is inspiring. Not many people would go this far for a friend, but for a stranger? I am in awe of them. We could all learn a lot from these kids.

The Ramos family is fortunate; they have a roof over their heads. Though numbers vary between sources, El Paso County has anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 homeless individuals. That number does also include whole families that find themselves without a home of their own.

If you would like to help YLM in their mission of Changing Lives Through Simple Acts of Kindness, you can reach them at 915-858- 2588, and speak to either Elvira or Pastor Heimer.


Photos by the Author

Bordertown Undergroun Show 728
STEP 728
RHINOS 2018-2019 728