Dallas volunteer groups gear up to help border kids

Immigrant children

Credit: Associated Press

At least 1,000 young people were being detained at a Border Patrol facility near Brownsville, Texas and at other locations in June, 2014.

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on July 1, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 3 at 5:12 PM

DALLAS — Thirty-five volunteer organizations are working together to present a compassionate response to the Central American border children coming to Dallas County by the end of July.

These organizations — including the American Red Cross; the Salvation Army; Texas Baptist Men; Catholic Charities; and Jewish Family Services — often are called upon to respond to natural disasters.

“This is an opportunity for them to really get up and move, and do some things that make them children,” said Nikki Beneke, president of the Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, an umbrella group representing the relief organizations.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who is leading the county’s effort to set up shelter for 2,000 unaccompanied minors, called the groups together on Tuesday. He said the federal government will pay for all the costs of this operation.

Which raises the question: Why are volunteers even needed?

“To know that the community cares about them; that the community understands what they’ve been through, and sees them as people and not as problems," Jenkins explained. "I think that’s going to be very, very important for these children."

Unlike a hurricane, these relief groups have time — about a month — to prepare for the arrival of the border kids.

Tuesday's meeting was their first to discuss plans. The volunteer groups say they will meet weekly as plans develop.

But Beneke says their objective will remain the same. “Opportunity for our community to come together, to assist these assist these children to have a better life,” she said.

In addition to the relief organizations, also attending the meeting were emergency management coordinators from Dallas and nearby communities and senior leaders from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which is ultimately responsible for this entire operation.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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