Cenizo Journal Fall 2021 - Page 18

COMMUNITY

By Carolyn Campbell on the Move

Twisting through the winding roads of the scenic landscape of the Jeff Davis mountains is Mobile Comunidad , a custom van offering full-service assistance directly to residents of Jeff Davis County . A collaborative effort between Friends of the Jeff Davis County Library , Jeff Davis County Library and the Food Pantry of Jeff Davis County , Mobile Comunidad ’ s mission is to offer support and programs in literacy , nutrition , health , social services , and digital connectivity for residents of this remote region .
I had an opportunity to sit down with Vicki Gibson , the executive director of the Food Pantry , to find out more about this groundbreaking program and why it ’ s vital to the wellbeing of the region .
Why do you think Mobile Comunidad is vital for the Jeff Davis region ?
“ People who visit and the people who live here , they see the beautiful mountains , this wild and remote place with skies so dark you can sometimes sit outside and read a book by the light of the Milky Way . Along with the beauty of the place , there are a lot of people experiencing hunger , isolation , mental and health problems , and economic challenges . In a lot of ways , this little corner of Texas is the last frontier . There is this culture of rugged individualism that is kind of a double-edged sword . On one hand , people take pride in being able to do things for themselves and not asking for help . On the other hand , there are a lot of people who need a lot of help . Fortunately , there are a lot of people in our community who believe in neighbors helping each other . There are many people in this community that I have met who would give you the shirt off their back , literally . Even if they don ' t agree with you politically , or don ' t agree with your lifestyle or whatever . But you ' re my neighbor , you ' re my friend . And if you need help , I will help you .”
There ’ s a lot of research recently about how important it is to bring your services to those who need it rather than bring them to you and that ’ s exactly what you are doing .
“ It ’ s kind of , I don ' t know , selfish and selfimportant that I would think , ‘ Hey , I ' ve got this thing , come over and get it from me .’ That ’ s just not how I think . I think if I ' ve got this thing that other people need or want , I need to go out to where they are .”
There are multiple things that you ' re bringing into these communities . Can you spotlight some of them ?
“ The two main things that Mobile Comunidad offer are food and library services . Food is a very important part . Second , when people think of the library , they often just think of checking out books . Libraries today are so much more than that . They are often the hub of the community , and especially in a small , remote place like Fort Davis and Jeff Davis County , that is certainly the case . Mobile Comunidad has all sorts of services — for instance , DVDs . That ' s important because 90 % of the county does not have internet is not covered by internet service . We also have printing services , faxing and notary services . We also offer a library of things , like crock pots , food dehydrators and garden tools , or any number of things you can check out from the library .”
Why did you choose the name Mobile Comunidad ?
“ Well , of course , ‘ comunidad ’ means community in Spanish . And when we were trying to think of a name , we wanted to come up with something that captured the spirit of the mission . And that is to lift up people by meeting a variety of social service needs and bringing those things right to where they live . It is really neighbors helping neighbors , even in the most remote areas of our community .”
What does it mean on a personal level ?
“ I feel like it ' s my job as a human being to go out and meet people where they live , and not to wait for people to come to me . Dorothy Day was a Catholic worker . She ’ s one of my biggest heroes , and she talks a lot about community . One of the things that she says is that the only answer in this life to the loneliness that we are bound to feel is community . And that just speaks to me . When I think of community I think of food . When we are building bridges , or building bonds with people , we do that over food . That ' s a way that we build community . So I guess I ’ m taking this little piece of what I have to offer out into the community , trying to build bridges and bonds , and helping people with the basics of life .”
Why is it important to have a mobile unit ?
“ Our county is approximately 2,300 square miles with approximately 2,300 people , that makes an average of one person per square mile . It can be 25 miles from their house to get to the road to get to Fort Davis . About 13 % of our whole population in the county lives below the poverty line . People under the age of 18 make up 35 % of the people who are living in poverty . That ' s why we have such a

18 Cenizo Fall 2021