Bollywood in Brownsville: Fundraiser to benefit Ozanam Center

Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
Bollywood in Brownsville is set for this month to benefit the Ozanam Center. (Courtesy: India Association of the Rio Grande Valley)

Bollywood in Brownsville, coming April 19, has a dual purpose in mind: help out the Ozanam Center while giving ticket buyers a rare taste of India’s lively, vibrant culture and cuisine.

The fundraiser is the brainchild of District 2 City Commissioner Linda Macias, whose district includes the Ozanam Center, a nonprofit homeless shelter that in recent times has had an extra burden placed on it in the form of large numbers of migrants waiting to be transported out of Brownsville. Touring the facility during Thanksgiving week last year, Macias saw up close what went on, met staff and clients, and learned about the tremendous financial pressure the center is under.

Ozanam normally serves clients such as women and men seeking escape from domestic violence, people with addiction problems, young adults who have aged out of the foster care system, and individuals incapable of maintaining a household for whatever reason. On top of that the center, which has been in existence 30 years, now has a sizable migrant population it is trying to accommodate.

Macias said the facility’s capacity is 300 people per day, but that it has been allowing more than 380 to stay because they don’t want to turn anyone away.

She also learned during her tour that Ozanam had not held a fundraiser since before COVID, and in the last 16 years had never raised more than $5,000 from any one fundraiser. Macias said she felt a responsibility to help the center since, for one, it’s in her district. Plus, the city relies heavily on Ozanam to house migrants who would otherwise be on the streets while waiting to be transported out of Brownsville.

“I couldn’t walk away and not do something about it,” she said.

Macias, who visited India with her husband in 2018, came up the idea for Bollywood in Brownsville. She called former city commissioner and Ozanam board chairman Ben Neece to tell him. A devoted fan of Indian food and culture, Neece was excited about the idea and contacted the India Association of the Rio Grande Valley, or IARGV, that same day to see if they could help, Macias said. The organization, based in McAllen, jumped at the chance.

Macias said she’s sorry Neece, who died unexpectedly Dec. 12, won’t be around for the fundraiser and thinks he would have loved it. The event is being held in his honor, she said.

Bollywood in Brownsville will be catered by Chef Celia Galindo, who has cooked for Indian and Pakistani private parties in the Valley, Macias said, noting that Galindo has also teamed up with the IARGV to make the event as authentic and genuine as possible.

“We have a lot of prominent and connected cultures within our community,” Macias said. “The Filipino Association is one that’s very strong here.”

The Pakistani and Indian communities likewise have a robust presence in the Valley, contributing much to economic development, she said.

“There’s about 80 to 90 families across the RGV,” Macias said. “The majority of them are in Brownsville and then the rest you can find in Hidalgo County. It’s very strong.”

Bollywood in Brownsville starts at 6:30 p.m. on April 19 at the Brownsville Events Center, 1 Event Center Blvd. Formal, festive attire is encouraged. Tickets are $100 each and include a three-course Indian meal, wine and entertainment compliments of the IARGV. Tickets are available only at Camelia Mexican Boutique, 1424 W. Price Rd., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.