Janet Helmar smiles cheerfully as she ladles rich-smelling beans onto a mound of steamed rice in a Styrofoam tray.
A resident of Reno, Nev., Helmar is a member of the Samaritan’s Purse organization that is assisting with the needs of asylum-seeking migrants dropped off at Del Rio’s Chihuahua Center on Las Vacas Street.
Helmar is assigned to the cooking unit, which helps prepare hot meals for migrant families traveling through Del Rio.
“This is the fourth summer I’ve been sent to Texas,” Helmar laughed. “It’s hot in Reno, too. The humidity is what gets you here,” she said, fanning her hand in front of her face.
Helmar cooks in a trailer set up in the parking lot on the southwest side of the Chihuahua Center. A room in the center serves as the transition point for migrants coming into and leaving Del Rio. In that room, the migrants receive assistance from members of the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition in contacting their U.S. sponsors and buying travel tickets for transportation that will take them to their final destinations.
In recent weeks, the transition center itself has undergone transition.
The room where migrants receive help in contacting their U.S. sponsors and in purchasing their tickets to Chicago, Ill., Portland, Ore., or Atlanta, Ga., is still there, but growing up in the parking lot on the southwest side of the building is a small city made of several large trailers and a pair of large, tan military-style tents.
Shannon Daley, of North Wilkesboro, N.C., is the program manager for U.S. disaster relief for an organization called Samaritan’s Purse.
“Samaritan’s Purse is an international, faith-based organization that helps people who are in need, whether that be from disaster, poverty or war,” Daley said Tuesday.
Franklin Graham, the oldest son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, is the president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“We are separate entities, but under the same CEO,” Daley explained.
“Here in Del Rio, we’ve been called to help migrants as they come across through their legal pathway into the U.S. seeking asylum, and we’re here to give them a good hot meal, give them a place to shower, a place to rest while they are traveling toward their sponsors,” Daley said.
She said there are currently three staff members and 11 volunteers at the site.
In the parking lot outside the Chihuahua Center, Samaritan’s Purse has set up a kitchen trailer.
“From inside that trailer, we’re able to provide meals for the migrants as they come in. There is shower trailer that is actually being run by the Baptist men, and there is a bathroom trailer, and then there is one tent that serve as our dining hall, just a place for people to go and sit in air conditioning and eat their meals and hang out while they’re waiting for their transportation out of Del Rio. We also have a second tent that is there for men’s sleeping quarters,” Daley said.
In an effort to keep dirt and grass out of the tents, Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers have created a neat wooden sidewalk from the asphalted parking lot to the front doors of the tents.
Samaritan’s Purse, which supports a variety of humanitarian efforts in the United States and around the world, is named for the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus Christ, responding to a listener who asked him, “Who is my neighbor?”, told the story of a man who was beaten and left for dead by robbers. The injured man was ignored by religious officials and eventually helped by a stranger. After telling the story, Christ told his disciples to “Go and do likewise.”