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Pomona shelter reports 374 migrant children placed with family or sponsors

Efforts to move migrant children out of an emergency shelter at Fairplex and into homes with relatives or sponsors have picked up pace significantly in recent weeks, officials say.

A total of 374 children have been placed with a family member or other verified sponsor as of Friday, June 4, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Bonnie Preston.

The latest figure is a marked increase in family reunifications since May 19, when officials reported 36 children had been placed with family or sponsors since the emergency intake center opened its doors May 1.

Officials have long stressed that the goal is to place unaccompanied minors detained at the U.S. southern border with family or sponsors as soon as possible following their arrival at emergency shelters in Pomona Long Beach and other cities.

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Children won’t be empty-handed when they leave Fairplex, however, thanks to public donations and volunteer work.

A fund created by the Pomona Community Foundation – the Esperanza Fund – will be used to create reunification bags for children released to a family member, sponsor or transferred to another long-term shelter. These bags will include items such as gift cards, long-distance calling cards, books and school supplies.

The response to the fund has been strong, according to Richard Martinez, Pomona Unified School Disrict superintendent and PCF treasurer. With $5,500 in the fund as of Wednesday, June 2, a large portion of donations have come from PUSD parents wanting to help migrant children in any way possible, Martinez said.

“It’s incredible to see our own parents lending a hand. These are working class families and yet they are still giving back, what an incredible sign,” he said. “It’s a humanitarian effort in our backyard and we’re all stepping up to help.”

As of Friday, Fairplex was sheltering 424 children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border alone, according to Preston.

The majority of children at Fairplex range between ages 8 and 17 and are arriving from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. With the majority of these children making long, harrowing trips across the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico, many arrive with little besides the clothes on their back, officials have previously stated.

For those looking to help with in-kind donations, unopened items such as travel-size hygiene kits, clothes, blankets and other essential goods can be dropped off at 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, 1682 W. Mission Blvd. Participants are asked to complete an intake form and attach it to donations during drop-off.

Staff at PEOC have fielded an outpouring of calls and emails in the past month from those looking to help, said Executive Director Fernando Romero.

“Here in Pomona, we have a community that actually cares,” Romero said by phone Thursday. “There’s a sense of pride to the response we’ve seen so far since Fairplex opened its doors to these children.”

Fairplex also accepts donations from service providers. Entertainment for children, such as musical acts and arts and crafts, and personal care services, such as barbers, are sought. In a recent visit, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis brought a folklorico group and actor Danny Trejo to surprise children at the intake center, according to Fairplex spokeswoman Renee Hernandez.

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Volunteers may not directly interact with children, however, due to stringent guidelines set by the federal government and Cherokee Federal, the contractor providing administrative services at the site.

Nonetheless, volunteers are needed to organize donated items for reunification bags for when children are ready to be paired with a family member or sponsor. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old and fill out an online interest form to be contacted.

How to Help

For more information on how to donate, contact the following organizations:

Pomona Community Foundation Esperanza Fund: 909-784-5327;

Pomona Economic Opportunity Center: 909-397-4215;

Source: Pomona shelter reports 374 migrant children placed with family or sponsors

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