Two San Benito County fire stations overflowed with donations for farmworker relief drives on May 23, organized by State Assemblyman Robert Rivas and State Senator Anna Caballero. The drives took place at Fire Station One in Hollister and Fire Station Four in San Juan Bautista.
A line of cars waited to donate goods in San Juan, their windows covered with messages expressing appreciation for agricultural workers.
“My father made sacrifices all his life so myself and future generations could go to school and better our lives. So it was very emotional in addition to just coming out and bringing food for people, it really hits home for most of us,” said Hilda Ramirez, who travelled as part of a caravan of self-described community advocates to donate to the relief drive. “We wanted to make sure they knew they were loved, cared for and thought of. We hope to point out the relevance of their work in our lives to the legislators and those that make policy because we feel that they should have a more proper right to citizenship.”
A massive amount of food, paper products, cleaning supplies and other goods spilled onto the street and the fire station driveway where Congressman Jimmy Panetta sorted goods into appropriate piles.
“Look around, we are surrounded by mountains of food and products that are being donated for our farmworkers,” Panetta said. “I think we here on the Central Coast—being the grandson of immigrants that I am—we understand our farmworkers are not just valuable, but this pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable they are to, yes deportation, but also to this disease and the conditions.”
Asked about farmworkers who may be hesitant to take advantage of any resources because of their legal status, Panetta pointed to his work on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which passed in the House of Representatives in December.
“The ideal thing is that there is legalization,” he said. “The passing of this bill is to make sure there is a pathway to citizenship for those who are here who continue to work in agriculture.”
Panetta later went to Hollister to help with the relief drive at Fire Station One on Fifth Street. Volunteers there loaded donations onto a truck at 2 p.m., which then transported the goods to another building to be sorted.
“We’re offering our help out to the community also, non-emergency and emergency,” Hollister Fire Marshal Charlie Bedolla said. “We are able to provide a facility, a safe place to drop-off, donate and get it out to the public.”
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