On Saturday, May 16, two members of Nevada City UMC travelled to Chico, armed with clothing, food supplies, $300 of gift cards, and, more importantly, the financial and moral support of their Pastor, David Niu and several other church members.
They joined with a “Caravan” organized by NorCal Resist, a Sacramento-based immigrant support organization with regular activities aiding traveling asylum-seekers, families of ICE detainees, legal help, and advocacy for immigrant rights.
NorCal Resist received appeals from immigrant families living in and around Chico in Butte County, requesting aid. These families were among the many suffering great loss and trauma in the Camp Fire in Paradise in 2018. Due to their immigration status, they were unable to access the help that did come from the federal government to others. The Covid pandemic and resulting economic shutdown further burdened these families.
With the support of staff from the Northern Valley Catholic Social Services, NorCal Resist was able to link volunteer teams with an assigned family and provide information to the teams about any specific needs of that family. Chico United Way also added to the effort with extra gift cards to grocery stores.
Once there in Chico, in the outdoor yard of a small church, the twenty-one “teams” opened their vehicles laden with items for their family, and helped sort the ton or more of extra items (food, clothing, toys, and household items) while waiting for their families to arrive. Eleanor Kenitzer, NCUMC Choir Director and Family Ministries Coordinator, commented about the event: “I was so impressed with the energy, organization, and especially the youth of the leaders of this effort. They made this whole event feel very gratifying to the volunteers and the recipient families”.
Ever since 2016, when the national tide seemed to be turning hostile to immigration, and churches were exploring ways to be in solidarity with immigrants, some members of Nevada City were trying to find a way for the church to support immigrant rights. “Sanctuary church”? “All Are Welcome Here” signs? Legal rights of immigrants training? "No More Walls” witnessing? Attending workshops with Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño?
When the appeal for volunteers for the Butte County Immigrant Food Caravan arrived, one Nevada City member forwarded it to the Church and Society Committee. The response was positive and the pastor said right away this should be a church project, not solely the committee’s effort. It grew from there.
Nevada City UMC raised funds beyond what was requested for their designated family and forwarded that money on to NorCal Resist for its ongoing direct support of immigrants needing humanitarian help, in line with the intent of the donors for this effort.
Brian Fry, Chair of the Church and Society Committee, summed up: "The effort for this particular caravan is not the culmination of our immigration support interests for our church; it is rather the beginning. The relationship initiated with our assigned family (father, mother, and three boys, aged 15, 10, and 8) will not end here. We learned of additional needs for this family from their Disaster Case Manager at Catholic Social Services. We also learned of people working to provide much needed aid for immigrants right in our own nearby towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City."