The Big Bend is known for its many law enforcement agencies who keep the area safe, but also provide a helping hand to those in need.
One such group, Marfa Morale Welfare and Recreation, is a non-profit organization that helps to promote charity awareness, furthers educational endeavors, and instills a sense of camaraderie for the better good. Members include former and current U.S. Border Patrol agents, along with staff members from the Big Bend Sector.
The Big Bend Sector, with headquarters in Marfa, is responsible for the largest geographical area of any sector along the Southwest border. Stations that fall under Big Bend Sector command are in Alpine, Marfa, Presidio, and other Far West Texas towns. Each station has its own Morale, Welfare, and Recreation group.
Border Patrol Agent Stephen Crump, a 20-year veteran who works out of Sector Headquarters in Marfa, said there were several scholarship fundraisers for high school seniors in Brewster, Jeff Davis, and Presidio counties.
“Some of the highlights of what we do are food and toy drives. We do a Green Santa, kind of like the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office does the Brown Santa,“ said Crump. “We pick a family, and we purchase toys and clothing, and we do a coat drive every year in wintertime for families that we know need them. A lot of the philanthropy is in trying to help out where we can.”
Tina Lujan, a group member and admissions support specialist at Sector headquarters, said any Border Patrol staff member was eligible to join.
She pointed out, “There were areas where we needed to help with morale, but its little things like a death in a family. We will take a collection, and send flowers or provide scholarships.”
Though many Border Patrol agents work in Marfa, many have families and live in Alpine and Fort Davis, hence the scholarships for students in those area schools.
In May, three top students were each awarded with a $500 scholarship - Nayeli Soto from Alpine High School, Norma Elena Hernandez from Marfa High School, and Abrianna Naegele from Fort Davis High School.
“This year, because of COVID-19, we could not do any fundraisers, and we usually have a big fundraiser in the spring, like a shooting event at the range,” said Lujan.
The next big fundraiser will be a raffle for a Border Patrol commemorative handgun donated by Crump. In recent years, the headquarters in Marfa hosted a popular community open house, and kids from area schools even visited the facility where the staff welcomed them with complimentary hot dogs and drinks.
“Maybe we can recruit some kids who will one day want to be a Border Patrol agent, but if nothing else, we want to the community to feel part of our family,” said Lujan. “I think it shows that we are part of the community, that we are good neighbors and that we care, and that we want to invest in the kids and the community.”