SAN BENITO — A warm orange fresh and glowing embraced the new community center where immigrants will now enjoy meals, classes, legal aid, and mental health services.
Behind the center, three cabins formed a large area of bare earth that will become a peaceful courtyard.
Welcome to a new era of outreach at La Posada Providencia, where volunteers from the Amish community, the Mennonites and other caring souls are about to complete the community center, but three cabins, which will each accommodate 16 people.
To celebrate this milestone, La Posada held a dedication ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
In the morning time as the sun reached noon, the “tink-tink-tink” of hammerings and the screeching of power tools signaled a quickening pace in preparation for the dedication.
Currently, La Posada has beds for 24 people, but once work is completed in about two months, 58 guests from 93 countries will have a place there.
“It’s been wonderful witnessing the completion of the project,” said Benjamin Deuel, executive director, as he walked the grounds of La Posada, where the sounds of construction and the vitality of completion invoked the importance of the moment.
Efforts for better accommodations at La Posada began in 2016, so this is the culmination of many years of fundraising and coordinating by volunteers and organizations, including Disaster Aid Ohio and Mennonite Disaster Service.
Construction of the new facilities began in October, and they will soon open to serve the community.
“We are here for the dedication, and I think it’s great,” said Saria Raber, a member of Disaster Aid Ohio, the Amish organization which played a key role in the project’s creation.
“We are a caring community,” Raber said.
Then, regarding the new community center where she stood in the kitchen, added, “They’re doing a great thing for the immigrants.”
La Posada Providencia is a shelter for refugees and asylum seekers. It was founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1989 as a ministry for people in crisis from throughout the world. It’s website says shelter staff provide a safe and welcoming home, mentors to promote self-sufficiency and cultural integration.
Immigrants from throughout the world — Cuba, West Africa, Central America — have spent time at La Posada after arriving in the United States. The cultural diversity of the location was clearly visible Wednesday at the entrance, with flags from Mexico, Israel, Panama, Ukraine, Korea and Puerto Rico and other nations rippling in the breeze.
Immigrants have declared on numerous occasions the importance of La Posada to their lives, and now spoke of their joy for the new facilities.
“Oh, my goodness, it’s a blessing,” said a woman from Zimbabwe who currently goes by the name “Shalom” for matters of privacy.
“When I first came here there was a need,” she said.
Shalom came to La Posada in 2018 and she was three months pregnant. She stayed until her son was more than a year old and moved into her own place.
But she didn’t forget La Posada — she has stayed on as shelter assistant.
“We call them guests, and they are our brothers and sisters,” she said. “I make sure they have clean clothes and food to eat.”
She spoke passionately about Sister Zita Telkamp, who recently retired after serving many years as executive director.
“This was Sister Zita’s dream,” she said. “She is a wonderful person. This was Sister Zita’s dream.”
At the groundbreaking in October, an associate of Sister Zita read some thoughts she’d shared.
“It is my privilege to join you today — in spirit and to share in word — two prior historical events that took place leading up to this morning’s groundbreaking ceremony,” she said.
Her narrative in October for the crowd of about 100 attendees, including lawyers, medical personnel, teachers and others who work with refugees and asylum seekers, spoke about Pope John Paul II in the 1980s appealing to all religious communities everywhere to serve immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
“In response to the Pope’s request, and inspired by our founder Bishop Ketteler’s motto ‘to meet the needs of the time’ my religious community — the Sisters of Divine Providence — came to the Valley in 1989,” she said.
Since then many others from throughout the world have come to the Valley to stay at La Posada. Now, with the new facilities about to open, still more will come.