South Bend Woman Mobilizes Her Church to Help Farmworkers

South Bend Olga Jimenez has had to field her share of questions recently from her two daughters about the news they see on television.

The girls “are like, ‘Mom, why are we always hearing bad news?’” Jimenez says. “’Everything seems like bad news and we want to hear some good news.’ “If that doesn’t get you, what will?”

Jimenez has come to realize that even at a young age, Aline, 9, and Alani, 6, understand they live in a troubled world. So, she and her husband, Mauricio, want to ensure their children see and are involved in examples of goodness.

For Olga Jimenez, that revolves around doing missionary work at her church, South Bend Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church.  Jimenez, 33, has been attending the church since she was 8 and has been among the members spreading goodness throughout the community.

A couple of weeks ago, Jimenez got a chance to take her good works beyond her community after watching videos and pictures posted on Facebook by Jesusa Rivera.  Rivera works in South Bend for Proteus, a federally funded agency that supports and advocates for migrant farmworkers.

Rivera’s posts about the farms prompted Jimenez to reach out through the social media site.  Rivera wanted to share more about Proteus and how she could get involved.

Rivera said the reaction from Jimenez means the videos had the desired effect.

“I wanted people to see how hard our farm workers work, even during COVID-19,” Rivera said.  “And you only have to look at the type of work that they do and their working conditions to see that it’s hard work.”  Jimenez was not the only person moved to action, said Rivera, who has offered suggestions for help.

“I tell them that they can go to the web page and donate,” Rivera said. “They can drop off long-sleeve shirts or socks at WorkOne in South Bend.”  One person asked about donating water.

“I said, ‘Absolutely, water is golden,’” Rivera said.  “Long-sleeve shirts are golden. Socks are golden, and a home-cooked meal is golden.”  For her part, Jimenez led fellow members of the Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church in an effort to buy socks and long-sleeve shirts (to protect from pesticides and the sun).  They also cooked a Mexican meal and asked children to make a thank-you card. And they traveled to a farm in Hamlet, Indiana, to bring the items to workers there.

“Some of the people that went there have done this kind of job and they know how hard it is, and we wanted to do something nice for (the farmworkers) because we know they don’t get the recognition they deserve,” Jimenez said.  “We feel that this is our mission.  As long as we are on Earth, we have to spread love.”

Jimenez got Aline and Alani involved in the effort.  The girls helped deliver napkins and drinks.

“I am still getting texts messages about how grateful these farmworkers are because it was something they never expected,” Rivera said.  “One of workers said, ‘I haven’t had a meal like this in years.’”

Church members are used to serving the community.  They will go through the neighborhood, for example, to hand out cold water to people who are working outside or waiting at a bus stop.  The hope is that by making a connection, church members can talk about the Lord.  Jimenez said the church has a singing group that performs Christian music in front of the stores along Western Avenue.

“We also have prayer involved and we always have people talking about the trouble that they are having in their lives,” she said.

A love of God and a love of people motivates the good deeds of Jimenez.

Rivera, though, never thought to ask Jimenez why she decided to help the farmworkers.

“It was a blessing,” she said, “and you take it as a blessing.”