By Fidel Garcia, Community Volunteer Coordinator, Evins Regional Juvenile Center
Quietly and away from the limelight, several groups of dedicated individuals gather each December at the Evins Regional Juvenile Center to host Christmas parties for about 130 boys across 10 dorms.
These groups of volunteers represent a cross-section of the community. They are not shy or afraid to speak up for these boys or to them, firmly believing that these young men can turn their lives around and do well.
One volunteer, Ernesto Duran, a sales manager for an international firm, had just arrived from Columbia the night before. Yet Duran made time to coordinate the meal and gifts for the boys. During the party, he exhorted them to do better, promising them that with effort, they could.
Speaking in Spanish to the youth, many of whom grew up in Spanish-speaking households, Duran said, “Nosotros venimos contigo porque te amamos y queremos que tengas exito y quieremos que vuelvas a casa con tu familia.” (We come to you because we love you and want you to succeed and go back home with family).
In the spirit of the Christmas season, the volunteer groups bring in a variety of special foods, sweets and soft drinks. Each group has their own way of creating their party. Some bring in live music and sing carols with the boys, while others bring in CD players and perform skits for them.
This past Saturday, it was the Catholic Dioceses of Brownsville’s turn to host the party. They served the Rio Grande Valley’s traditional Christmas meal: a plate full of steaming tamales, rice, and beans with hot sauce and sweet bread.
“We don’t get this every day and the smell of this food remains me of home,” declared one youth from Nuevo Laredo as he paused to savor the moment and smell the food on his plate
As the party came to an end, each youth received a Christmas card with a special message for them and a $15 credit to their personal student account to be used for canteen or phone calls with family. Volunteers told the youth that Jesus blesses and cares for them.
As the volunteer group headed out the door, one youth shouted, “Thank you! Thank you for coming here for us.”
Other sponsors hosting Christmas parties at Evins this year were: First Baptist Church of Edinburg-My Brothers Keepers, South Texas Youth Volunteer Council, Apostolado de la Cruz, Knights of Columbus and several other parishes from the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville.