Mecca Comfort Station to be Dedicated
MECCA – Supervisor John J. Benoit and Galilee Center founders Gloria Gomez and Claudia Castorena invite the community to celebrate the completion of the Mecca Comfort Station, a permanent shower, restroom and laundry facility for migrant farmworkers in the eastern Coachella Valley.
A dedication and blessing ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11 at the Galilee Center in Mecca, 66-101 Hammond Rd. Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of the Diocese of San Bernardino will bless the facility.
“The Mecca Comfort Station will help farmworkers and the community have access to showers and laundry, necessities that are often taken for granted,” said Supervisor John J. Benoit. “I consider Galilee Center founders Gloria and Claudia to be walking saints for their dedication to serving people in need in our community. They were vital to making this unique and very worthy project come to fruition.”
The Mecca Comfort Station is a joint effort of the County of Riverside and the Galilee Center, a non-profit that provides food, clothing and other basic needs to low income families in the eastern Coachella Valley communities of Mecca, North Shore, Oasis and Thermal. Last year, the county provided funding to the nonprofit to renovate a portion of its building, which was a vacant warehouse, into the Mecca Comfort Station.
“It is amazing to see the transformation of an old abandoned warehouse into a beautiful community resource that will serve the migrant farmworkers and community of Mecca for years to come,” said Gloria Gomez, founder of the Galilee Center.
As many as 200 farmworkers each day are expected to use the comfort station.
The Mecca Comfort Station has a men’s and women’s restroom facility and an additional family restroom, with a shower and toilet. The women’s restroom facility has 11 showers and six toilet stalls. The men’s restroom facility has 13 showers, three urinals, and four toilet stalls. Each restroom facility has handicapped showers and toilet stalls.
The laundry facility has eight washing machines and ten dryers. In addition, there are six total lockers available.
The comfort station will be open for the winter harvest season starting Nov. 1. Services will be provided seven days a week November 1-March 31 and May 1-July 31. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Riverside County has been under a longstanding legal obligation to provide a shower facility for the farm labor community in the eastern Coachella Valley. Since 2006, the county has partnered with the Desert Alliance for Community Empowerment to operate a temporary facility containing portable showers and restrooms. However, the facility was 1.5 miles outside the town, lacked laundry services and cost approximately $100,000 per year to operate, including transportation to the facility.
Plans to create a permanent facility were delayed for years due to the search for a suitable location and the state’s elimination of redevelopment, which removed a key funding source.
In 2013, a vacant warehouse in downtown Mecca was donated to the Galilee Center and renovated into the nonprofit’s office, thrift store and food distribution center. Supervisor Benoit and Riverside County Economic Development Agency staff met with the founders of the Galilee Center to explore the opportunity of using a portion of their facility, which is in a readily accessible location for the community, to house these services.
In December 2014, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a commitment of $1.2 million to the Galilee Center to construct the Mecca Comfort Station and $75,000 per year to cover the facility’s operational costs over a ten-year period. Construction of the improvements began early this year.
The completion of the Mecca Comfort Station fulfills the final legal obligation in the county’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In 2000, the county entered into an agreement with HUD to settle complaints addressing the working and living conditions of farmworkers. The county has complied by producing 9,242 affordable housing units for low-to-moderate income residents since 1999 and providing other programs and services.
In addition to services at the Mecca Comfort Station, the Galilee Center has completed the renovation of an additional 3,133-square-foot room that will serve as a community room.
Tours and refreshments and tours will be available after the ceremony. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 760-396-9100.