Newtonians plan humanitarian aid for border-stranded children

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Students at Newton Bible Christian School have started collecting supplies for children stranded at the Mexico-U.S. Border. Those supplies will be delivered by local drivers who will leave later this week.

Andy Ortiz, a member of the Newton USD 373 Board of Education, and Clint McBroom, a member of the Newton City Commission, have lunch on at least a weekly basis. They talk about a lot — politics included. 

But at the moment they are putting politics aside, creating a project together to help abandoned children at the U.S./Mexico border. 

"Watching the news and what is going on, setting aside politics and biases to realize that there are kids down there that need help, I called Andy the other morning because he has connections down that way and asking what can we do to help," McBroom said. 

In about a half hour, Ortiz had ideas and connections made. The two men started planning to gather supplies. 

At this point the plan is for four vehicles to deliver water, non-perishable food items, first aid kits, toiletries and other helpful items to children stuck south of the border without their parents. 

Starting April 16, they will travel more than 900 miles, cross the border and deliver items to churches and community members in Matamoros, Mexico. Matamoros sits on the border south of Brownsville, Texas.

They will also look for ways to help when they get there. 

"It is a journey," McBroom said. "It's one day down there, one day back and whatever we do in between. We are willing meet the need when we get there if there something else to do. We are not on a timeframe. We are not planning to drive down there, turnaround and drive back the next day

According to savethechildren.org, which is an organization that works in more than 100 nations, for years, a complex crisis of violence, brutal gangs and entrenched poverty has driven children and families to flee the Northern Triangle of Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – and seek safety and protection in the United States.  Right now, as unaccompanied children are being taken into border authority custody after crossing the border, they are being forced to sleep on cold floors and without access to hygiene and basic support services. 

"It is what I call humanitarian aid," McBroom said. "... Right now what the community needs are baby items and food."

He reached out to Newton Bible Christian School, and the school jumped aboard to have students start a donation drive.

"Our kids in our community, they do not understand what is like. Number one I think we shelter our kids from a lot of news which is sometimes a good thing, and secondly, we are very fortunate in America," McBroom said. "We want our kids to understand and know that they are making a difference."

The Salvation Army has offered canned goods while the Acapulco Restaurant on Broadway has offered beans and rice — and to be a donation point for the public during the evening hours. 

Migrants from Central America and Mexico await the outcome of their U.S. immigration court cases in a tent encampment near the Gateway International Bridge at the U.S.-Mexico border in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on Oct. 1, 2019.

McBroom will collect items at his business, Newton Furniture and Cabinet Company at 517 N. Main during business hours on weekdays. Mallory Morton is collecting boxes for items to be packed into, while the Del Puente Cafe at Broadway and Main has donated bottled water and toiletries.  Gurty's, on east 12th, has also donated to the effort. 

"We have seen the restaurants in Newton jump into the effort and we hope for more next week," McBroom said. "... We wanted to give people in our community the opportunity to help make a change. If we can be the avenue by driving items down there, we know people will be the avenue for providing items and giving." 

Items sought include:

Water

Non-perishable food items (dried fruit, peanut butter, energy bars, ect.)

Bags of rice and beans

Canned goods

First aid kits

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap

Paper plates, plastic cups, utensils, paper towels

Sleeping bag or warm blanket

Manual can openers

Baby supplies (formula, diapers, baby food, wipes, Pedialyte)