By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
A call to action from Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly on Sept. 19 set into motion a charitable effort involving four area non-profits that would aid migrants more than 400 miles away.
“Bishop Kelly called us to ask if we could do anything to help Bishop James A. Tamayo in Laredo,” explained Luis Gonzalez, CEO of The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of North Texas. “He explained that Bishop Tamayo had shared with the brother bishops of Texas how bad the situation was on the border with refugees and not having supplies.”
Answering that call, the SVdP sprang into action and teamed up with Catholic Charities Dallas, the Knights of Columbus and Goodwill to deliver more than two tons of donations to Laredo.
Gonzalez began by contacting Alex Lopez, store manager for the SVDP Thrift Store, to inquire about clothing that could be donated.
“The next day Alex contacted me back along with Tony Ruggeri, our thrift store board president, and indicated he had four gaylords of clothing donations he could make available, but we would need a truck to transport them to Laredo,” Gonzalez said. “So, I contacted Harry S. Storey, one of our board members who is also a Knight of Columbus, and by Tuesday evening, they had a truck and two drivers ready to take the donations to Laredo.”
Storey, who serves as chairman of the Texas State Emergency Response for the Knights of Columbus, said his organization responded after Gonzalez reached out to him to request the Knights provide transportation for the donation to Laredo.
“We reached out to Dallas area Knights and requested volunteers,” Storey said.
Adam Frisch, a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 15033 in Irving, volunteered to deliver the items, using his truck and trailer while his gas was paid for by his employer. Frisch was assisted by Jack Van Der Putten, the 17-year-old son of a member of the Knights.
“They drove down and back from Laredo in 22 hours,” Storey said.
Gonzalez then contacted Becky Solloa, executive director of Catholic Charities of Laredo to coordinate delivery and by the afternoon of Sept. 20, one ton of donations was on its way south.
Two days later, Gonzalez said he was contacted by Tim Heis, CEO of Goodwill Industries, who offered to send 10 pallets of clothing to Laredo if SVdP could provide trucking. Gonzalez then turned to Catholic Charities Dallas to help make it happen.
“Catholic Charities Dallas continues to work to ‘welcome the stranger’ and, in particular, the immigrants in numerous ways, and, in this case, in response to Bishop Kelly’s hope to help the Laredo diocese with the overwhelming numbers at their door,” said Dave Woodyard, CEO of Catholic Charities Dallas.
On Sept. 26, Gonzalez contacted Solloa to confirm the first delivery went well.
“I then surprised her with the news that a second truck was headed there later in the week with another delivery,” Gonzalez said. “On Sept. 29, the clothing was picked up from Goodwill by Catholic Charities Dallas and driven down to Laredo on Oct. 1 – another ton of clothing for our neighbors in need.”
According to Woodyard, due to the size of the need and the opportunity to deliver a substantial amount of clothing to Laredo, Catholic Charities Dallas volunteered its large capacity truck and staff to make the delivery.
“Our Hunger and Fleet Manager Edwin Chinchilla worked closely with SVdP and Goodwill to coordinate pick-up times and then ensure that there were resources available for the ‘off-load’ in Laredo,” Woodyard explained.
Gonzalez said the collaboration should come as no surprise to anyone as the four non-profits share similar missions.
“There are too many people who are in need, and we’re all here to help,” he said.
Woodyard agreed, saying the work to benefit those in need in south Texas continues the spirit of Catholic Charities’ overall mission.
“Our mission truly calls us to serve and, in this case, we are especially proud to do our part in such a broad collaboration,” Woodyard said. “CCD constantly strives to serve the least of us and this is yet one more example of utilizing our gifts and resources to help those in need.”
Storey added that the first principle of the Knights of Columbus is charity as well, noting that the Knights of Columbus in Texas and Mexico have regularly assisted the immigrants in need. In 2019, the Knights of Columbus provided truckloads of supplies to the border towns on both sides of the border and portable showers to help the immigrants. The group also sprang into action during Hurricane Harvey to serve 60,000 meals to those impacted by the 2017 storm.
“We work closely with Catholic Charities, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and other charitable organizations to assist the less fortunate,” Storey said. “We are always looking for ways to assist those in need.”