Volunteers brave winter storms Despite freezing temperatures, food bank serves families

Icicles hang from car bumpers and forgotten snowmen line the streets of Fredericksburg, Virginia. It’s 20 degrees with a wind chill, and schools have closed for the week.  Most people are huddled in their homes and offices, sipping hot cocoa and snuggling under electric blankets.

But not the volunteers from LUCHA Ministries. These women and men led by LUCHA’s only paid employee, Aida Kent are bundled up in scarves and gloves, sorting through boxes of donated produce at the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.

“Dress warmly, today girls,” Aida tells us before we leave. “We’re going into the freezer!”

One of LUCHA’s key ministries is working with the Food Bank to provide provisions for Latino families who have fallen on hard times.

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Take Cenon, for example.

Cenon worked the night shift at Wendy’s, walking or riding his bike home around two or three in the morning. One day, as he was crossing the bridge some miles from his house, he was hit by a car and left bleeding in the street. He yelled for help, but no one came near him. . “I screamed and screamed, “ he said. “Finally I heard the ambulance.”

At last an unknown bystander called 911, and Cenon was taken to the hospital.

His leg had to be amputated at the knee, leaving him unable to work. The hit-and-run driver was caught by security cameras but didn’t have insurance to cover Cenon’s medical expenses.  Despite the hardship, Cenon still has a bright smile as he learns how to live with one leg. Families like Cenon’s require supplementary assistance during their recovery process.

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Every Monday, LUCHA’s volunteers give their time at the Food Bank; often working through lunch to make sure the six to seven families LUCHA serves have enough to eat. Every volunteer is from the Latino community and what is leftover is divided among them to take to their families.

Supervisor Aida Kent knows what she’s doing. A native of Puerto Rico, she’s fluent in English and Spanish and also works as a translator at the hospital. She makes sure each volunteer and family is cared for and often makes personal visits to check on her clients. Kent has around 60 rotating volunteers from the surrounding Hispanic community who are willing to lend a helping hand to families in crisis.

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Despite the freezing temperatures and icy roads, the volunteers of LUCHA are adding a little warmth to the week.

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What are you doing after graduation? New intern: Ashleigh's story

What are you doing after graduation?

Before the end of my senior year in December, the question lurked behind every final exam and senior project. I’d checked off every box.

I was finished.

So how did I find myself 1200 miles and 20 hours away from everyone I love, sitting in the office of a dentist with a woman from El Salvador, trying to remember the Spanish word for gums? (It’s encias, if you’re wondering).

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This spring, I’ve packed up my tent and hiking boots and moved to Virginia for three months to be the Student.Go intern for LUCHA Ministries, Inc.

Why LUCHA? Why now?

After seeing the struggles of my undocumented friends in Texas, I knew I wanted to work with immigrants. My minor is Spanish; I’ve studied abroad in Central America and have great appreciation for Latino heritage and culture.

Who is LUCHA? What do they do?

LUCHA wears many hats in the community, but their primary purpose it to provide holistic care for Latino immigrants in Fredericksburg.

My jobs so far:

-helping a committed group of Latina volunteers unload and distribute food for families in crisis.

-teaching the only bilingual Girl Scout Troop in Virginia to dance the twist to the Beatles as they prepare for a presentation about England

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-teaching an ESL class at the local church for adults

-serving as a translator at the dentist

-increasing outreach and fundraising through social media and blogging

-brainstorming for the Community Give, a city-wide day of fundraising for Fredericksburg

-getting ready for the Advocacy Summit in D.C. where I’ll meet my representatives and learn about opportunities for reform

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-meeting the women of Project Adelante, a women’s empowerment group

 

We painted watercolors this week, are making soap next week, then on to computer certification, basic Spanish and English pronunciation.

 

Reasons I’m here

  • I needed something productive to do between finding a job and applying to grad school

 

  • I’ve seen the struggles of my undocumented friends in Texas. Many of them were kids who came to the U.S. when they were in elementary school and have been unable to receive citizenship ever since.They’re honor students who volunteer, help me when my car isn’t working, take care of their younger siblings. But they still can’t get a driver’s license, register to vote and live in fear of deportation.

 

  • I’m tired of hearing human beings (especially some of the nicest, most hospitable people you could ever meet) described as illegal and alien. No person is illegal.

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Actions are illegal. People are not. Calling someone this is just another way to dehumanize them. And when we use language to dehumanize others, we open ourselves up to all sorts of terrible historical realities like the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide.

Although I once again find myself out of my cultural comfort zone, this is what I love to do, so I’m going to try new things until something works.

I’m excited for new opportunities and friendships, hiking along the Appalachian Trail, exploring D.C. and getting a little bit closer to figuring out my place in this thing called reality.

“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.” – Dalai Lama

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Ashleigh Bugg graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor with a degree in journalism and Spanish. She has worked with Student.Go in Fort Worth, Texas, Kosice, Slovakia and Fredericksburg, Virginia. She blogs about international issues and affordable travel at Travel Bugg.