Day Laborers Mobilize to Direct Donations Straight to Mexico & Puerto Rico

Posted on October 4, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

“We Need to Share the Little We Have”

Day laborers dressed in yellow traffic vests to protect them as they work along busy roadways formed a human chain this past weekend, tossing crates of water, food, flashlights and more down stairs at St. Peter’s-St. Denis Church in Yonkers and up stairs at St. Jerome’s Church in the Bronx for a quick stopover on the donations’ way to earthquake-torn Mexico and hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

The day laborers and their families - members of Obreros Unidos, an advocacy group supported by Catholic Charities NY to help immigrants who daily wait on local street corners hoping to get picked for construction jobs - pitched in to help in prior disasters.  They volunteered with Catholic Charities in Staten Island, commuting hours by truck, train and ferry to help New Yorkers hurt by Hurricane Sandy rebuild. They collected 4,500 pounds of food and supplies to help Catholic Charities with our response to the earthquake in Central American last year. 

But this time it was personal. Nearly all the 30-plus Obreros Unidos volunteers along with their sister group, Women in Action, and their families hail from Mexico and have relatives or friends desperate for hurricane-relief help in Puerto Rico.

Catholic Charities empowers day laborers in Obreros Unidos in Yonkers, Port Chester and the Bronx.  We provide employment rights education to prevent exploitation and abuse; assist in the collection of unpaid wages; help workers get access to healthcare services, provides emergency food, and offer English language and computer skills instruction


When Obreros Unidos learned supplies sat stalled on bridges and barges they mobilized.  Catholic Charities, their longtime partner and supporter, offered supplies, sites and know-how, connecting them to Mi Casa es Puebla, a Mexican-American support group in Passaic, New Jersey already marshaled to deliver supplies to Mexico and Puerto Rico. The day laborers and their families added their muscles and determination.

“Mexico te necesita. Donativos aqui, por favor, gracias,” read a handwritten sign they held up to passersby.  “Mexico needs you,” the sign translates in English. “Donate here, please, thank you.”

They made and taped flyers at Hispanic stores in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods in Yonkers, Port Chester and Bronx. Local priests led by Rev. Eric Cruz, Catholic Charities Bronx Coordinator and pastor at St. John Chrysostom Church in the Bronx, made announcements at every Mass.  A member of St. Peter’s Church in Yonkers donated a truck, driver and gasoline from his business. And the day laborers scoured their own pantries, donating essentials from their families’ supplies.

Together, this small army of nearly 50 people - with support from Catholic Charities and their own communities - collected more than 100 large boxes of food, water, diapers, clothes, flashlights, batteries and first aid supplies to donate to Mexico and Puerto Rico.

“I saw a poor, old woman on TV sharing what little food she had,” said one of the day laborer organizers, Celestino Gonzalez.  “I thought we need to organize here to also share the little we have with others.”

Day laborer, day trader or whatever you do during the day, disaster victims in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and more need your help now.  Join us at

Catholic Charities is responding to the needs of our neighbors during the 
COVID-19 pandemic.

For Help Call 888-744-7900