About Texas Environmental Grantmakers Group
Formed in 1996, Texas Environmental Grantmakers Group (TEGG) is a loose federation of community, family, and corporate foundations, as well as a few individual donors, who explore the challenges and opportunities for environmental support in the state of Texas.
TEGG resources can be found on our online resource library.
Good Will and the Wall
Members of TEGG held their spring meeting at Sabal Palm last week to discuss the environmental and conservation issues surrounding “the Wall.” Sandra Skrei, board member of the Malcolm C. Damuth Foundation, arranged for some TEGG participants to see for themselves the human impact of the Wall. National emergency? No. Humanitarian crisis? Definitely yes.
Several members toured the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen which is operated by Catholic Charities and managed by Sister Norma Pimentel. This is the largest shelter of its type in the Texas Valley and daily serves from 100-800 immigrants who have successfully pled their case for asylum, proving they have credible fear to leave their home country. Many have been on the border for days or weeks, then taken into ICE or CBP custody, and finally released to the shelter, where they get a meal, shower, clean clothes and assistance to move onward to be with their sponsor, usually a family member, sometimes a church. The shelter has 5 fulltime volunteers who sort donated clothing and supplies. They receive carloads of donations daily, but it can all be gone in a day.
While in Brownsville, some of us assisted with a grassroots group called Team Brownsville. These are locals who saw a problem and have dedicated themselves to fixing it. Many asylum seekers have chosen to sleep at the entry to the international bridges, awaiting their turn to be interviewed. Matamoros, the city across from Brownsville on the Mexican side, has shelters, but they are not close to the bridge, and they are full beyond capacity. Afraid they will lose their place in line if not present when called, about 100 men, women and children are now staying and sleeping in an ersatz tent city at the entry to two of Brownsville’s three international bridges. They have little more than the clothes on their backs, and Team Brownsville has been providing breakfast and dinner daily since last June to those on the International Gateway bridge.
At dinner, different individuals or groups have taken it upon themselves to provide the meal, made up of a protein, vegetables, and a starch. They prepare the food at their homes, meet other volunteers at the Brownsville bus station, walk over the bridge and serve dinner, bringing plates, forks, napkins, and bottled water. The asylum seekers are very appreciative, and they help with handing out food and cleaning up afterwards. It’s all very orderly, with children fed first, followed by women and then the men. Team Brownsville also tries to fulfill other needs, such as small toys for the children (bubble-making liquid, hula hoops, and chalk), a priest to perform mass, occasional ESOL teachers, or a nurse. For breakfast, BISD school administrator Michael Benavides is sometimes a one man show. By 6:45 am every day, he is walking across the bridge with about 100 breakfast tacos, 50 sausage biscuits and bottled juice. He asks people how their night was (they sleep on cement) or what they might need. Then he walks back and goes to his day job. He often funds the breakfast out of his own pocket, and Mike told us it costs around $150 per day. Among the people providing dinner, we met the local LULAC chapter who volunteer a couple of nights per month, and residents of Riverbend a 55+ community nearby cook and serve one or two nights per week. On Tuesdays, a woman named Melba oversees the dinner. A professor at the local college, she shops on the weekend and her elderly mother – and her mother’s aide – spend all day Tuesday cooking. Melba then picks up the meal after work to walk it across the bridge.
Angry Tias y Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley (angry aunts and grandmothers) formed last year when they heard about the asylum seekers camping on the Mexican side. They work in both Brownsville and McAllen, and they fill in many gaps. In Brownsville, we met with Elisa Filippone who daily walks across and brings personal items, most of which have been donated. This includes new underwear, socks, feminine products, energy drinks, snack bars, wipes, diapers or baby formula, sleeping bags, and more. Elisa talks to all the women and children and feels they are the most vulnerable.
Both Team Brownsville and the Tias also volunteer at the Brownsville bus station, where often there are 50-100 approved asylum seekers get dropped by ICE or CBP. Once here, the goal is to board a bus to where their sponsor lives, which could be anywhere in the US. Volunteers provide each person with a small backpack with bottled water, snacks, a pillow, toothbrush, wipes, etc. The volunteer helps negotiate the purchase of a bus ticket, draws a route map, and explains how to change buses.
These groups have no agenda other than to help. Although some have obvious church affiliations, no one is doing this to save souls. Sometimes a volunteer would lead a prayer before the meals, but not always.
To learn more, contact us.
- Obviously, money is needed by any of these groups.
- Donated clothing is most needed in McAllen at the Catholic Charities shelter, click here for information.
- Angry Tias is now officially a 501c(3), and accepts donations via this link.
- Team Brownsville takes financial donations through a go-fund-me link.
- Also, write to your elected officials and ask them to vote against reducing aid to Central American countries. Studies have shown improvements in life on the local level will slow the perceived need to migrate north.
Finally, we highly recommend you volunteer in person. No training required, nor do you need to speak Spanish. Show up, pull a wagon full of food or water, share. You need only a heart and open mind. The little that we did, serving dinner or bringing clean underwear and hearing someone thank us, it was the most humbled we’ve ever been.
- Bob and Jean Warneke
Public Policy News
National Initiative Underway To Support Imperiled Wildlife And Sensitive Habitat
HR 5650 would allocate $1.3 billion annually from existing revenue sources to effectively implement all 50 state Wildlife Action Plans. Collectively, these plans identify and provide a roadmap to recover more than 12,000 nationally imperiled species, called Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Read more.
TEGG Contact Information
The Meadows Foundation
Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation
Amy J. Askari
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