2020 - web - neighborhood heroes
Roberto Gonzalez Photography

COMMUNITY: Darlene Tenes' caravans provide aid to local farmworkers

The Quakes and Wells Fargo are humbled and inspired by the amazing work of our frontline communities and neighbors in this time of crisis. Each week, we’ll be featuring and highlighting the work of one fantastic neighborhood hero, showcasing the great work they are doing and the organizations our community can rally around.

Additionally, a donation will be made to an organization or community project on behalf of each week’s hero. This week we will be donating to Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.


 

For Darlene Tenes, advocacy for farm workers has always been a cause near and dear to her heart. All of Darlene’s family has been involved in social justice causes her entire life. When Covid-19 sidelined Darlene’s travel and lifestyle business, she decided to channel her energy and talents into advocating for our highly essential farm workers.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was talking about essential workers, but no one mentioned the farm workers,” says Darlene. “They have worked through wildfire smoke, the pandemic and heatwaves to put food on the tables of everyone across America. I just wanted to give them the acknowledgement they deserve.”

She was inspired into action after seeing Assemblymember Robert Rivas' post about a Farmworker Relief Drive in Watsonville that same day. Within hours she used her social media channels to ask friends and neighbors about joining her for a caravan to bring food and supplies to the farmworkers.

Darlene and her other volunteers gathered all the resources they could, even if it meant sacrificing some of their own goods at a time when grocery store shelves were empty. “On the first caravan, we cleared out our own pantries,” says Darlene.

After her first caravan with just four vehicles, Darlene realized that she could use her skills to expand this idea into a highly organized and impactful operation that many community members could participate in. “I might as well put my marketing skills to use for good!” said Darlene.

With her background in marketing, public relations and event planning, Darlene was confident that she could plan and execute a more robust effort to bring aid to our farmworkers.

She partnered with the San Jose Women's Club to use their facility as a donation drop-off location, but grew out of the space after the first four caravans. The community showed up so enthusiastically to donate, that the location would often cause traffic to back up down the block.

Because of Darlene’s familiarity with event planning, the monthly Farmworker Caravan quickly became a smooth and seamless operation.  Now, there is a pre-registration process, and participants receive a formal caravan packet the morning of the event.

Since then, multiple donation drop-off locations have been established on Fridays with caravanners meeting early Saturday morning to drive to different agricultural communities in Northern California.

Caravanners decorate their cars and bring handmade signs to acknowledge the workers as they pass by the fields. They wave, honk their horns and shout greetings from their cars as they pass by the fields.

People that participate in these caravans witness the community coming together in unity during these difficult times and they often remark about the "emotional experience” says Darlene.

“We have people that have been on every caravan,” says Darlene. "It's been a real grassroots effort of individuals coming together to make our corner of the world a little bit better."

Recently, Darlene initiated a Halloween treat bag drive for the farmworkers. She posted a simple request for 800 treat bags and got an immediate response, fulfilling the need within a few hours.  By the end of the week she received thousands of Halloween treat bags and volunteers delivered them to a variety of different food and agricultural worker communities from San Francisco to Watsonville.

This operation would not be possible without the contributions of many individual community members and local partners like Catholic Charities, Latinos@Amazon, Habitat For Humanity, United Lowrider Council of San Jose, San Jose Women’s Club and many more.

To learn more about how to donate to or get involved in the farmworker caravan, click here or watch the video here.

Topics: 

Download the FREE MLS App

Follow San Jose's scores, updates, highlights, analysis and more.