Organizations, volunteers come together for FAD
By Ken DeLaat, N3 News
While Farm Workers Appreciation Day has been going on for some time, the past few years the event has become a drive thru due to COVID concerns. But in pre COVID days it was an extravaganza with music, games, food and giveaways that greeted the hard working families who are the backbone of the agricultural economy in our region.
Mary Rangel works for District Health Department #10 in the Women’s Infants and Children (WIC) Division and also serves as chair of the Sparta Area Migrant Resource Council. Her office is in the Community Center in Grant. She also gathers the support and volunteers necessary to put together this annual doings where hundreds of farm worker families are able to access needed items for their children and themselves.
We caught up with a busy Ms. Rangel during the Sunday event after an extensive search of the Grant Middle School campus where scores of cars lined up to take advantage of the gifts of appreciation. Volunteers we asked reported sightings of her here and there as she moved about the area ensuring the operation was going smoothly and answering a boatload of questions.
Having corralled her for a moment or two she kindly agreed to answer a few more questions from N3.
Tell us a little about FAD.
“This is an event where we celebrate the migrant and farm working families who come into our community to work with our farmers. Some of these families come in every year, some from different states and some who go from one farmer to another and stay here all year round. They do the apples in the winter, then the strawberries, the blueberries, the cherries and so on. They’re people who we know and they know us,”
How did this get started?
“About 20 years ago a lady named Luvy Rodriguez worked for the state of Michigan and she started this event. She did it for a couple years then passed the baton on to me. Since then I have chaired it and gotten it organized with all the volunteers who come from the community to make it possible.”
“We get funding primarily from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, Choice One also gives a donation toward the shoes and we get smaller donations from other sources as well.”
This helps our migrant families. They don’t qualify for food stamps or a lot of the stimulus packages aimed at small children because they don’t have social security numbers. They don’t qualify for unemployment. So let’s say a packing company closes down because of COVID or some other reason. They get nothing and are out of work until it reopens. This is a way of helping.They come here and help us so we’re trying to give back.”
Why are you involved?
“Coming from a migrant background my passion is for the migrant families that come through here. Being a child in a migrant family the simplest things in life meant so much. If you go through the line you’ll see we’re providing backpacks, clothing and shoes for the children. We also give out socks and underwear and a grocery bag of culturally friendly groceries and then add a small door prize.
“To you and I the door prizes would mean nothing. Like a fan or an Igloo for carrying water. We might use the cooler to take to the beach but these people use it every day. Everything we provide here is a necessity and to me it means a lot that we can help our families in that way.”
We recall sitting down with Mary 5 years ago, our first time at FAD. The atmosphere was bright and smile producing as traditional music and dance blended splendidly with the games for all ages, food items and the giveaways that are now dispensed by car.
It was then that Mary told me of her upbringing in a migrant family.
“When I was 9 years old my Mom and Dad had a baby and I stayed home taking care of the 6 week newborn baby, Thea, and my 8 year old sister Irma. When I was 11 years old I started working for the same farmer my dad worked for. We worked in the fields for many summers, my sister Irma and I. I remember going back to school in the fall and listening to all the other kids talk about their summer family vacations.
“We never knew what a summer vacation was.”
I do this because it’s my passion to help others, but especially the migrants and farm working people because I know what it’s like to have very little. I have a beautiful memory of my Mother taking my sister Irma and I to an agency in Fremont to get new coats for school.. The memory of feeling like a "Queen" with my new coat is one I will never forget.
Well done Ms. Rangel.
And well done to the FACF, others who contributed, the sea of volunteers and all who helped make this not so random act of kindness happen.
.“A good half of the art of living is resilience.”-Alain de Botton