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Jewish group launches collection drive for migrants

Bags of toys and toiletries collected by Jews for Justice in Immigration filled the office of Bellarmine University Professor Frank Hutchins, who teaches a course on immigration and the southern border. Hutchins just took his class to Arizona and Mexico, where they delivered the supplies to a community service center for migrants. (photo provided by Frank Hutchins)

A Jewish social justice group in Louisville just helped a Bellarmine University professor fill several suitcases with necessities for migrant families at the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Jews for Justice in Immigration (JJI) delivered the supplies – enough to fill a good size van – to Frank Hutchins, a Bellarmine professor of anthropology and sociology, on Monday, Feb. 10.
Hutchins, who is teaching a course on the border situation called “Immigration, the Wall, and Death on the Border,” took his 18 students to southern Arizona and Mexico over Spring Break to see the situation for themselves. Ideally, each of them toted a suitcase full of supplies.
“It’s all really functional,” Hutchins said of the bags and boxes of donations that took up space in his office prior to the trip. In his many travels abroad, “I’ve seen a number of instance where people, out of the goodness of their hearts, donated things that just aren’t appropriate, but they (JJI) donated stuff that is really useful.”
The donations were to be delivered to Casa Alitas, a Catholic community service center in Tucson that serves about 240 clients per day, many of them women and children.
Susan Rostov, a member of JJI, initiated the drive. She got to know Hutchins after he wrote a column about the border situation last July for the Courier-Journal and decided to reach out to him.
Later, Hutchins told her about his class’ planned trip to the border. Since they were flying on an airline that allows two free suitcases per traveler, he decided each student would pack their clothes in one bag and fill the other with necessities for the families.
“I said, ‘I can do that, and I want to take this back to a group I’m with (JJI),” Rostov said.
She drafted a letter to the JJI mailing list and got back “a ton of supplies” – toiletries, first-aid supplies, diapers, toys, washcloths.
She also spread the word beyond her group. One woman from a church organization contributed large boxes of supplies.
In the end, JJI, Hutchins and his class raised more necessities than could fit in 15-18 suitcases.
Rostov said any excess items will be donated to La Casita, a Louisville hospitality center for the Latinx community. In fact, JJI continued the suitcase drive to bolster donations for La Casita.
Hutchins said the project was a practical way to respond to the crisis at the border.
“This is an issue people are interested in for a number of reasons,” he said. “Up here in Kentucky, it sometimes feels like you can’t make a difference pushing back against injustice. This is a way to make a difference.”
What struck Rostov about the whole experience, she said, was how eager people were to help.
“People want to do, but they don’t know what to do,” she said. “And they thanked me – ‘thank you for doing this.’ It was a win-win for me, for Bellarmine, hopefully the migrants.”

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