Volunteers welcome and help migrants in Rotterdam

ROTTERDAM — For almost two weeks, controversy and political fighting have swirled around the arrival of busloads of migrants in Schenectady County. But quietly, there is also a large group of people who are working to help them.

They plan to collect donations every Thursday night, and give them out every Friday from now on.

“These are our new neighbors and we welcome them here in Rotterdam. I think we need to rise above all of the politics and just focus on that these are human beings who need our help and children who are completely innocent and so we just want to be as welcoming and as helpful as possible to help them meet their needs,” said Mohonasen teacher Liesha Sherman, who is helping to collect donations.

The Sherman house has been overtaken by items for the migrants at the Super Eight Motel in Rotterdam.

“I reached out to the teachers of Mohonasen because I’m a Mohonasen teacher and I have had 30-40 volunteers who want to help, donate things, our dining room is filled with donations,” said Sherman.

Volunteers have a Facebook group: “Allies for Justice Schenectady County.”

“We want to welcome our new neighbors in Schenectady County and they have so much need for everything, every basic need, toiletries, clothing, and so we want to help them,” said organizer and former teacher Maria Pacheco. “And we want to make sure they know that we in this community welcome them.”

Friday, people came into St. Gabriel’s to pick up what they need.

“We were passing our phones back and forth using Google translate and the biggest thing they were asking for were jobs,” said Liesha.

The ousting of motel residents and arrival of the migrants has caused concern and some anger in the community.

The volunteers are simply focused on helping the newcomers.

“They’re fearful from where they came from and it’s not right for how some people have treated them,” said volunteer and Mohonasen coach Bill Sherman. “They’re just moms and dads like us with children. And they don’t want a handout, they want to work, and they want to contribute. They’re desperate for that.”

The newly formed “Allies for Justice” will be accepting donations here at the Rotterdam Community Center on Curry Road every Thursday night from 5 to 7pm.