DALLAS — The Community Room in Southwest Center Mall was busy on Wednesday.
The room was busy with people moving in and out; busy with workers stacking boxes; and busy with volunteers collecting donations for about 2,000 unaccompanied immigrant children who are expected to soon be housed in temporary shelters across Dallas County.
“We’ve got toiletries, blankets, clothes, toys, and books,” said Connie Willis.
Willis, a member of Concord Missionary Baptist Church, was among nearly 200 volunteers who were collecting and packing donations before noon.
The donation drive was organized by Oak Cliff Community Development and its partners, which include neighborhood associations, churches, sororities, and non-profit agencies, among others.
Susan Berlanga of Oak Cliff was among the few volunteers who said they had personal knowledge of the crisis at the border.
“I’ve seen it first-hand,” Berlanga said. “I was born and raised on the border. I've seen them being picked up, being handled by the Border Patrol. Once we knew they were going to be here - you know, away from home and by themselves - we decided to come in."
The volunteers gathered to packages the donated goods for the young detainees who crossed into the United States illegally.
Several teens and children were among the workers organizing the donations. Those children left handwritten notes in Spanish and English in the packages, hoping their messages will make it to the children being transitioned into shelters in Dallas County.
“It's really not about the politics,” said volunteer Cristal Retana. “I think it's more about being humane and just helping a neighbor that just happens to be from somewhere else."
Organizers with Oak Cliff Community Development say they are considering another donation drive in August.
The group plans to deliver the donations and care packages to Catholic Charities for distribution when the detained children arrive in Dallas County.