WIMAUMA, Fla. — Marlene Gutierrez has a heart for the migrant farming community.
- Beth-El Farmworker Ministry started in 1970s
- It continues to grow, but needs more volunteers
- LINK: Beth-El Farmworker Ministry
- More Hillsborough County stories
"It's beautiful to help the community that is in so much need," she said.
The retired Wimauma resident volunteers five days a week at the Beth-El Farmworker Ministry.
Volunteers like Gutierrez are what keep the ministry running smoothly.
"We're known in the community as a place that helps, and there's trust here," said executive director Kathy Dain.
The ministry started in the 1970s, originally just a church in a carport in Ruskin.
Since then, it has expanded to include a large food pantry, thrift store, school, and donation center – and the expansion continues.
"We have these portable buildings," Dain said, "and so part of my dream was to repurpose those."
Dain has a four-year plan to create a comprehensive wellness center for farmworkers.
"They earn so very little that they just don't have the resources to go, and they don't have health insurance," she said.
In October, the ministry launched a free dental clinic where dentists volunteer one Saturday a month.
Gulfcoast Legal Services also recently began helping migrant farmers with legal issues like immigration, human trafficking, and domestic violence.
"Farmworker — it's a very hard work. It's a hard life. And you just, it makes your heart grow, I think, when you're able to do things like this," Dain said.
Beth-El currently needs more mentors and dental professionals to continue its mission of expansion.
It also needs additional volunteers for the food pantry and donation center.
"It takes 15-20 volunteers on a Tuesday to make our food pantry work," Dain said.