Posts By: Seth DeBartolo
What a good and gracious God we have, even in the midst of the recent storms! This is the God of whom the Psalmist sang, “made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” Ps. 107:25. Hurricane Irma is history, but her effects will be long felt.
Here is just a little insight as to the effects Irma has had on the Amigos Center and Southwest Florida.
Sad to say, we did not fair too well at the Amigos Center in Bonita Springs. It is now wet, moldy and in need of rehab before it can open again. We put two tarps over it to mitigate any further rain damage and packed most things up in preparation for a move to another facility. We still need to remove the wet carpets and ceiling tiles. Thankfully, all of the electronics at this facility are still in good working order. The building now has electricity, but no telephone/internet.
I don’t know yet where we will be able to reopen, however, Lyndsay and Evelyn have returned to work this past Monday. They expect to begin seeing clients sometime next week. This is important as the DACA renewals must be done by October 5, so it is urgent that we reopen in some temporary place ASAP.
Our Amigos Center in Fort Myers was infested with mold, due to the recent weather. Property Restoration was working to address these problems and now we are functioning normally at this facility.
Our Amigos Center in Immokalee weathered the storm well. Pastor Selle and his family stayed there during the hurricane. Electricity has finally been restored and there are some new leaks in the roof. No other damage to building itself.
However, one tree fell and broke one of our outdoor light poles and smashed the fence. Karl and volunteers opened this past Wednesday morning to allow Harry Chapin to distribute water, ice and MREs for those in and around Immokalee who were in need. They have opened several times in order to assist further.
We have lots of people calling and wanting to donate items and are offering to help. We are asking them to call Karl. Starting next week we will put Tulisha, one of our key volunteers, at 20 hours a week to handle food distributions. That will allow Karl to focus on lining up work projects for Immokalee families who suffered damage to their homes.
We will hold our regular worship services this Sunday.
Our personnel weathered the storm, but like many here in Southwest Florida, have damage in one form or another. One of our legal assistance, Evelyn, lost a portion of her trailer home in Rosemary Park. Also, our attorneys Lyndsay and Christina, experienced some water damage at their respective homes. Karl is still dealing with clearing his house from storm damage and Seth is dealing with downed trees and recently had power restored. Pastor Andre and Pastor Saint Luc suffered some damage to their homes as well, but are continuing to serve their roles at the Amigos Center.
By the grace of God, we are receiving some significant help from LCMS Disaster Relief. We are working on a $25K grant for relief work, as they already gave us $3,500 in VISA gift cards, which we have already begun distributing to those in need. More financial help is available upon request. This past Thursday, the LCMS Disaster Relief dropped off a semi-truck load of supplies at Zion Lutheran (diapers, tools, generators, tarps, etc.) We used some of it for the Bonita Springs Amigos Center. They are stationing two point people at Zion Lutheran in Fort Myers to help coordinate needed relief supplies.
Volunteer work crews are already here with more to arrive next week.
Thanks be to God for his mercy endures forever.
Now is a great time to gather and rejoice in how our gracious God held us safely through the storm. Even if you, like so many others, had some damages from the wind and water, all of the material things can be replaced, but God alone preserves life! You may have been without electricity, but you have had power all along with Jesus by your side!
If you feel you want to give of your time, talents, or treasures for recovery efforts, please contact Karl Glander at (239) 293-1489 or follow the prompt below to donate.
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a ministry outreach churches provide to educate children about God and all He has done for us. On a rainy June 7th the Amigos Center in Immokalee had a delightful and eager crowd of kids ready to have fun and learn more about their Lord and Savior. The theme this year was “A Mighty Fortress” in commemoration of the Lutheran Reformation – 500 years ago. Each day totaled 22+ kids and over 14 adult volunteers from Immokalee Lutheran Church and the Amigos Center who assisted to make this VBS possible. The ages of the kids ranged from pre-school to sixth grade. VBS has been held at this location for the past 2 years and continues to grow each year. This Vacation Bible School was a wonder opportunity for kids to socialize and learn more about religion in a relaxed and fun setting. V.B.S. has something for everyone, despite each person’s religious views. While activities are centered around teaching kids about God, V.B.S. combines fun and learning without the formality of a Sunday service. This event was provided free to the public because of the gracious donations given by members of Immokalee Lutheran Church and donations received by the Amigos Center.
We cannot thank you and the volunteers enough for your prayers and support.
Each month the Department of State sends out a visa bulletin showing the visa processing dates for different family relationships and countries. Depending on the relationship and country, clients can wait months to decades to get their green cards. Usually visa processing dates move forward in time or remain the same, but sometimes dates go back in time (retrogressing). The retrogression can affect when a client can file for the green card or get the green card.
When the January 2011 visa processing dates were released in mid-December 2010, Amigos Center realized that we had a young man in his final year of high school that only had days to submit his green card case or possibly have to wait many more years to file. Filing his case by December 31 meant him being able to get a work permit, social security number, driver’s license, and go to college. His family scrambled to get all the necessary documents/fees. With the help of Amigos Center, the young man was able to get the case properly submitted to immigration by the December 31 deadline. Happily his case is now progressing and he is currently waiting for his work permit.
Toward the end of January 2011 Amigos Center noticed that processing times for sibling cases were going to retrogress over two years as of February 1, 2011. We had two siblings that had submitted their green card cases last fall and both were scheduled for interviews with Tampa immigration for early February 2011. We quickly contacted Tampa to see if their interviews could be scheduled for January when the visa was still available. Tampa was able to see both clients on January 31 and both clients got their green cards. If the clients had not been seen until February, they would have been pending for many more months or years. Both clients called Amigos Center after their interviews to give a big thank you. After years in the U.S., they can now hop on a plane to visit their family in their native country and they are now in line to be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.
On December 29th, Harry Chapin chose Amigos Center to be the point of distribution for their mobile food pantry.
They arrived with three large box trucks and with the help of 45 volunteers we served nearly 4500 people in under 4 hours. We are thankful for the Harry Chapin’s partnership with us and their faith in our work in changing lives in Immokalee.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Financial Consultant Mark Fontana presents Pastor Bob Selle the matching $10,000 Lutheran Community Economic Outreach Bridge Grant. This matches dollar for dollar the non-pledged money that Amigos en Cristo raised during the past couple of months up to a maximum of $10,000. From November 2010 through January 2011 we raised $43,299 in non-pledged money from 79 donations ($548 per donation). This compares to the same period last year of $23,096 from 88 donations ($262 per donation). Thank you Thrivent for inspiring our donors to give more generously than ever.
Our first Amigos Center float was the Grand Prize Winner of $500 in the Immokalee Parade of Cultures! Thank you to all the volunteers who made the float and participated in the parade!
47.2% of residents living in Immokalee, live below the poverty level.
Your support of Amigos Center helps thousands of children and families in need throughout Southwest Florida.
Located in SW Florida, Immokalee is one of our nation’s most fertile agricultural communities. According to the 2008 USDA Profile of Hired Farmworkers, farmworkers remain “among the most economically disadvantaged working groups in the U.S.” and “poverty among farmworkers is more than double that of all wage and salary employees.”
Farmworker Facts and Figures
- Like textile workers at the turn of the last century, Florida tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece. The average piece rate today is 50 cents for every 32-lbs of tomatoes they pick, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1980. As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick more than 2.25 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday — nearly twice the amount a worker had to pick to earn minimum wage thirty years ago, when the rate was 40 cents per bucket. Most farmworkers today earn less than $12,000 a year.
- In a January 2001 letter to members of Congress, the U.S. Department of Labor described farmworkers as “a labor force in significant economic distress,” citing farmworkers’ “low wages, sub-poverty annual earnings, [and] significant periods of un- and underemployment” to support its conclusions.
- As a result of intentional exclusion from key New Deal labor reform measures, farmworkers do not have the right to overtime pay, nor the right to organize and collectively bargain with their employers.
- In the most extreme conditions, farmworkers are held against their will and forced to work for little or no pay, facing conditions that meet the stringent legal standards for prosecution under modern-day slavery statutes. Federal Civil Rights officials have successfully prosecuted seven slavery operations involving over 1,000 workers in Florida’s fields since 1997, prompting one federal prosecutor to call Florida “ground zero for modern-day slavery.” In 2010, federal prosecutors indicted two more forced labor rings operating in Florida.
*facts from The Coalition of Immokalee Workers
You don’t have to travel overseas to help someone in need.
There are families that need help right here in SW Florida! Many of those in need are our neighbors, our children’s classmates, even family and friends. These who are in need are hungry on all levels: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Your support of the Amigos Center helps thousands of families be filled in their minds, bodies, and spirits.
Hunger Statistics on Food Insecurity
*facts from USDA. Mark Nord, M. Andrews, S. Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States, 2009.
Help us make a difference in Southwest Florida.
- Stay informed
- Take a tour of the Amigos Center
- Sign up for the Amigos Center E-Newsletter
- Ask to receive quarterly printed newsletters
- Be a voice for those in need
- Encourage others to get involved
- Learn the facts and share the truth
- For the staff and volunteers
- For the children and youth we serve
- For the families we serve
- For the donors who make the ministry possible
- For youself, and how you can get involved
Family is sacred. Family is of utmost importance. Family is worth fighting for.
This is what we fight for daily. Uniting families, keeping them united, and making them strong for the future. Strong families make strong communities.
We connect individuals to the larger church family. We give families a place to grow together. We give families hope and unite them in the truth of the love of God through Jesus Christ.
Through our Family-Based Immigration ministry we make it possible for families to be re-united and stay united without worrying about the cost and difficulties of the immigration process. We give families the hope of working up the ladder toward citizenship and security for their families in the land of opportunity.
We are a friend to those who are in crisis. Through assistance, education, and advocacy, families receive the tools they need to succeed.