JWC Receives Chair Award from Jewish Family Service

It’s not always easy to get pointed recognition from clients, but last week, we did. Since 2015, we’ve worked with Jewish Family Service (JFS), one of San Diego’s most impactful nonprofit organizations that helps people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds in areas including food insecurity, families and children, older adults, and refugee and immigration. At its Annual Meeting, JFS honored JWC with the Chair Award in recognition of the agency’s efforts with the media onslaught surrounding JFS’s work with the San Diego Rapid Response Network and its Migrant Family Shelter.

The San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN), for which JFS is a core partner with ACLU, San Diego Organizing Project and SEIU Local 221, is a coalition of human rights and service organizations aiding immigrants and their families in the San Diego border region. Formed in December 2017, SDRRN was activated to respond to increased immigration enforcement and humanitarian issues, including widespread family separation and unjust deportation of asylum-seekers arriving at the Port-of-Entry.

Since the ending of ICE’s “Safe Release” policy, SDRRN learned that ICE was tagging families – all with young children –who had been initially processed for asylum by the Department of Homeland Security with ankle bracelets and dumping them onto San Diego streets without food, shelter or means to get to their final destinations.

SDRRN immediately mobilized and set up an emergency shelter. In just eight months, SDRRN has served nearly 17,000 migrants, mostly women and children, providing beds, food, clothing, health services, legal aid, and airplane and bus tickets to help families connect with loved ones across the country as they wait to continue their legal process to gain asylum.

With our first press conference quickly convened to share the details and facts about what was happening – with the goal of securing financial, political and community support – a media onslaught ensued.

Since then, in addition to coverage in almost every local print, broadcast and digital media outlet, JWC strategically coordinated and supervised dozens of shelter visits, five press conferences, and oversaw stories from national and international outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Associated Press, HBO’s VICE News, CNN, China Daily, Politico, Univision and Telemundo National, Fox News (and yes, it was positive!), and many others.

JWC’s constant struggle has been to balance the requests of the media and assist them in getting the stories and content to educate their audiences, while balancing the privacy of shelter guests – most arrive traumatized by the violence they fled and by their months-long, arduous journey – as well as not hindering the important work of shelter staff and volunteers.

The media exposure – more than 200 print, broadcast and digital news stories – has kept the San Diego migrant story at the forefront of the news cycle, positioned JFS and its shelter as the national model, and helped SDRRN garner important political support. It has led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations – some directly tied to news coverage – from San Diego and all over the country.

According to JFS Board Chair Marie Raftery, “J. Walcher Communications’ work has enabled us to make this politically charged issue into a human story about families searching for a better life. They have made this a story about dignity, health, and doing what is right by these families who are being dumped in San Diego without resources or assistance. And they have kept our value and more than 100-year tradition of ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ at the heart of this story.”

She added, “Our partnership has transcended beyond a vendor relationship. They have never had a down moment. There has never been too much work. They are invested in our mission and share in our success. They are the only vendors who have earned the right to wear JFS name badges and we are proud for them to wear them.”

We are honored to receive the award and for the opportunity to do this meaningful work.

And, we wouldn’t be good PR people, without telling you if you’re interested in learning more, visit www.rapidresponsesd.org. Donations of all sizes are accepted at www.gofundme.com/migrantreliefsd.