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Shutting down for the winter

Sharon Sullivan
ssullivan@gjfreepress.com
Child and Migrant Services Hospitality Center closed at 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 31, for the winter season — the first time in 13 years the center has not been open year-round. Funding shortfalls and fewer farm workers in 2013 contributed to the decision to close until spring.
Child & Migrant Services | Free Press

Authentic Mexican Tamales

The last batch — until spring — of Child and Migrant Services’ pork, chicken and vegetarian tamales are for sale and will continue to be delivered to Grand Junction for pick-up at Chopstix Express, 1037 North Ave., until they run out. The tamales are prepared at the Hospitality Center’s commercial kitchen and are $15 for a dozen.

Orders can be placed on the website: http://www.migrantservicesgv.org.

After 13 years of serving farm workers year-round, Child and Migrant Services Hospitality Center in Palisade closed today, with plans to reopen in the spring. The center had served migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families, mostly from Mexico and Central America, throughout the year since 2000.

“We’re reverting to an earlier stewardship model from 1954-2000, when CMS provided services only during the growing season,” CMS Executive Director Claudia McClintock said. “We’re going to use our more limited resources when the population is the greatest. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a smaller year-round farm worker population with needs, but we have to be good stewards with our funding.”

Like many other nonprofit organizations nationwide, funding for CMS has dropped since the recession, McClintock said.



It was a difficult decision for the board of directors to make, but after implementing other cost-saving measures, a move the board found necessary, McClintock said.

As of Friday, McClintock and program coordinator Karalyn Dorn are out of a job for the winter, although they both plan to donate time to the CMS mission of serving the people who harvest our food.



McClintock said she will continue as a volunteer community advisor to the CMS board of directors to maintain fund-raising efforts through the off-season.

Dorn will voluntarily open up the food pantry a couple of Saturday afternoons a month in November and December, and into the new year.

“We still need food donations of dried pinto beans and rice, and different kinds of canned vegetables,” she said.

Food donations can be dropped off at the Migrant Ministry Community Thrift Shop, 721 Peach Ave. (located behind the Hospitality Center), which will remain open Monday through Friday, 1 to 4:30 p.m.

“Winter is a tough time for people,” as many of those who stay through the season struggle with less income, Dorn said.

It’ll be especially difficult this winter after a growing season in which there was less work overall due to the spring freeze, driving many workers to leave the state for other farm jobs.

Although the farm worker population is smaller this year, “the need doesn’t go away,” Dorn said.

Child and Migrant Services was founded in 1954 by a small group of farmers’ wives who sought to help farm workers who temporarily left their homes and families for work in Palisade. Farm workers and their families come to the center Monday through Friday for English language classes, holiday socials, help with translation, and hot meals served during the growing season.

‘A place they can trust’

For the past four years, Maria Lopez has cooked the familiar foods of home — beans and tortillas, salsa, posole and meats with a spicy chili sauce for the farm workers who come to the Hospitality Center for supper after a long day of work. At the end of the growing season when the meal program ceases, Lopez works in the fields.

“It’s a good thing that meals are provided to people,” Lopez said, speaking in Spanish through a translator. “The people work hard and can get a meal right after work — it’s a good benefit for them. It’s mostly for people who don’t have their families here. They come here alone to work.

“I’ve heard people say this is a place they can trust, and feel at home. It’s a place where people are welcomed without a lot of bureaucratic paperwork.”

Lopez said closing the Hospitality Center will affect many families.

“There are many services that people benefit from,” including helping people understand important letters and documents. “I see a lot of people come to Karalyn for help with translation,” she said.

“A big part of what I do is help people sort things out, especially with the medical system (and) bills,” said Dorn, who not only translates documents; she also takes people to appointments where she serves as interpreter.

Interpretation and translation services will not be available this winter.

Lopez plans to go home to Mexico for the winter, then “God willing, I will return here to work next year,” she said.

Farmers lose when workers leave

Bruce Talbott is a longtime Palisade farmer and president of the CMS board of directors. The Hospitality Center began staying open year-round in 2000, after growers began noticing a change in the farm worker population, Talbott said.

“More families are here, and more (people) are not going back,” Talbott said.

Talbott recalled a time when the southern U.S. border was more “fluid,” when workers came from Mexico or Central America to work for four months, and then they’d return home to be with their families.

An unintended consequence of tightening the U.S.-Mexico border is that people who otherwise would have preferred to go home now stay, Talbott said.

“Now it’s more difficult to cross — it’s expensive and dangerous,” he explained. “Sooner or later you’re going to figure out how to get your family up here.”

Talbott said it makes sense to close the Hospitality Center for the winter because resources are down, and so is the client base from previous years.

A spring freeze killed many peach, apricot and cherry crops, reducing the amount of work available and many farm workers ended up leaving the area.

Talbott has often said when it freezes, farmers lose three times: They lose when the crop dies; they lose when good, skilled farm workers leave to find work in other states; and they lose again when markets deem suppliers unreliable and look for product elsewhere.

For that reason the Talbott’s, known for their peaches, have diversified into other crops as well so they can keep their employees occupied most of the year.

Still, Talbott said he had 30 workers at harvest time, down from 50 he typically employs.

“I’m very concerned that 20 won’t come back,” he said.

“Normally, we have 600 workers in the Palisade area; this summer we had about 250-300.”

Farm work is difficult and skilled labor that many U.S. citizens don’t want to do, he said.

Despite a smaller workforce this past year, the mission (of CMS) hasn’t changed, Talbott said.

“We’ll be back next summer. We may be short, but we’ll have workers.

“We would really like to keep them happy and well-fed.”


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