News: Wagonmaster partner with community for happy holidays
Story by Staff Sgt. Casey McGeorge
EL PASO, Texas – During the holiday season, people have a tendency to show more compassion and kindness to each other. For one Chaparral, N.M., family, it could not have come at a better time.
Through a partnership with the Otero County Prison Facility, the U.S. Marshal’s office and the 15th Sustainment Brigade, the Reza family reaped the blessings of the holiday season.
Dora Reza is a single mother of four. She also happened to lose her job a few months ago. The family lives in a trailer in Chaparral, but it wasn’t in the best condition.
The door was being held closed by a coat hanger. Windows were broken. The family was using propane tanks inside the house to stay warm. And those weren’t working very well.
“When I first went to the house, everyone was wearing coats and gloves inside the house to stay warm,” said Dora Orozco, the classification manager for the OCPF. “It was actually colder inside the house than it was outside.”
After speaking with locals, including sisters at the Religious of the Assumption Convent, she found out more about the family.
Even after Reza lost her job, she continued to give her time and energy to those who she felt needed it more. This included taking care of and cooking meals for the elderly in the area and helping sisters at the convent during their activities.
“I knew we had to do something for this family,” said Orozco. “She gives so much of herself.”
Through a chance meeting at Thanksgiving, Orozco met someone else who wanted to help.
Maj. Valiant Haller, the intelligence officer for the 15th Sustainment Brigade, jumped at the chance to help after seeing the conditions the family was living in.
“This is personal for me,” said Haller. “I still have family in Venezuela that lives in similar conditions. I can’t physically help them down there, but I can help someone else who needs it.”
Haller and his unit were not the only ones looking to give back during the holiday season however. Orozco recruited a little more help in the U.S. Marshall office.
Jesse Flores, a deputy U.S. Marshal was more than happy to help as well.
“I was invited by the OCPF,” said Flores. “I’m from this community, so this really hits home for me. Being able to give back to one of us, in one word, it’s amazing.”
Throughout the month of December, each group collected items that would be given to the family. Canned goods, non-perishable food items and gifts for the children were collected at each location. The biggest priority, however, was to do what they could to fix the home.
The prison purchased a new door for the family, as well as a few new windows to keep the cold air from coming in. Once everything came together, it was time put it all together.
Volunteers from the 15th SB and the OCPF came together to fix up the house. More insulation was installed around the house to help the house warm. Through donations, they were able to get a large propane tank for outside the house.
After a few days of work, everything finally came together. As everyone gathered around, Lt. Col. Michael Phillips, deputy commanding officer of the 15th SB, presented the Reza’s with a Christmas tree for the family.
“The city of El Paso and the entire community have taken us on and welcomed us with open arms,” said Phillips. “We can’t just continue to take and not give back. This is just the first of many things this unit plans to do to help in the local community.”
With tears in her eyes, Reza graciously accepted what the community came together to provide for the family.
“I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to take the help initially or not,” said Reza. I am not used to asking for or accepting help from anyone.”
“I didn’t think my children would have a Christmas this year,” she continued. “Seeing something like this lets me know that there really are good people in this world. I don’t have the words or know how to thank everyone for what they did for my family.
For everyone involved, thanks and payment were not necessary.
“The common denominator in all this is helping people,” said Flores. “When you see the smiles on their faces, that is more than payment enough.”