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Hundreds working to transform Expo Hall at Freeman Coliseum into shelter for migrant children, volunteers needed

The mad dash effort to transform an exhibit hall into a safe space for the kids continues in east San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO — Nobody is saying when 2,400 migrant children will arrive in San Antonio seeking shelter, but the mad dash effort to transform an exhibit hall into a safe space for the kids continues in east San Antonio.

The trail of trucks full of supplies is almost constant at the Expo Hall known more for cows than kids. At the Bexar County Community Arenas complex, which is the home of the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, the parking lot is jammed, as hundreds of people are involved in the effort to turn exhibit space into living and play space for children who are trying to find their way back to their families.

“HHS is responsible to run the facility and I believe they are going to do a good job,” Judge Nelson Wolff said.

Even though the federal government is in charge of the effort, Wolff knows local people want to help the kids, who many acknowledge, didn't choose to be here.

The effort also includes local contractors who will do some of the heavy lifting involved in this job.  For example, three local firms have joined together to provide the children with hot nutritious meals.

Greg Kowalski of the RK Group said his firm and Black Tie Affairs and Chelsea’s Catering will work as a team to use local resources to respond to this humanitarian effort.

But beyond the physical facility and square meals, Wolff said there will be ways for citizens to help.

“There will be opportunities to donate and share with the children,” Wolff said.

Tara Ford, with Catholic Charities said, “We want to offer them care and comfort.”

The local group is actively recruiting volunteers to help, and they say no special skills are required.

“It would be super helpful if they speak Spanish. It's not required but it will be helpful to just understand what one of the migrant youth might need,” Ford said.  

Ford said the first wave of volunteers is already at work, helping with setting up, but they know more will be needed, and sign up is underway.

“They will need to register as a volunteer so we can process a criminal background check." Ford said.

Wolff said this arrangement is a short-term contract, lasting just 60 days. He also said there is a contract provision for either party to cancel with just a seven day notice if conditions change.

Here are websites for both Catholic Charities and RAICES.

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