Border Servant Corps (BSC) was started in 1997 by Dot Quaintance who had served as a volunteer with Urban Servant Corps (USC) in Denver, CO. Dot was from Las Cruces, and upon her return to Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, she advocated for a volunteer program, modeled after USC, to serve the border region of El Paso and southern New Mexico. Four volunteers and a volunteer director began serving in the El Paso and Las Cruces areas.
In the beginning, Dot’s house in Las Cruces, NM, served as the volunteer house and office for BSC. This house (now known as Janaan’s House) remains the volunteer house in Las Cruces; the BSC office in Las Cruces is now housed at Peace Lutheran Church. The El Paso house changed addresses several times until 2009, when a generous donation from Dan Diemer allowed for the purchase of the home now known as Casa de Paz.
Dot Quaintance retired in 2001 and moved to New York to be near her son and his family. Diana Linden (BSC volunteer 1998-1999) served as director for the 2001-2002 service year, after which she attended seminary. Dick Schriver, a longtime member of Peace Lutheran and BSC treasurer at the time, was hired in 2002 and served as director until his “second retirement” in February of 2008. Ryan Steinmetz (BSC volunteer 2001-2002 and former BSC Board member), began as director March 2008 and served until May 2013. Kari Lenander (BSC volunteer 2008-2010) began serving on the BSC staff as a program coordinator in 2011 and was named executive director in May 2013. In September 2015, BSC welcomed Sophia Sepp (BSC volunteer 2014-2015) who serves as BSC program coordinator.
Since 1997, more than 150 full-time volunteers have served in the border region through Border Servant Corps; with as many as 18, and as few as 3, volunteers from year to year. Each year, Border Servant Corps works with the community to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly on the U.S./México border.
The U.S. / México border is a unique space where cultures meet, collide, and mesh in an atmosphere of constant change.
El Paso: El Paso-Ciudad Juárez, known as a Borderplex, is a bi-national metropolitan area on the border between México and the United States. More than 2.5 million people are estimated to live in this region and it is considered the largest area where the First World meets the Third World.
According to the 2015 vintage year of the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 80% of El Paso County consists of persons of Hispanic or Latino origin. More than 70% reported having a language other than English spoken in their home, with more than 23% of the County’s population reported to live below poverty level.
Despite its proximity to Ciudad Juárez, known for its increased violence during the drug wars, El Paso has consistently been ranked as one of the safest large cities in the United States (lowest crime rate among cities of more than 500,000 population) since 2011. Since 1997, the city has been ranked in the top three safest cities of its size.
El Paso, home to University of Texas at El Paso, serves as a hot spot for activism, specifically for immigration issues. El Paso offers many opportunities for involvement in borderland issues, on both a regional and national level.
Las Cruces: Nearby Las Cruces, NM is also considered a part of the border region, referred to as El Paso-Juárez-Las Cruces or El Paso-Juárez-Southern New Mexico.
Las Cruces has a population of 97.618 (U.S. Census, 2010) and is the second largest city in New Mexico. Since 2000, the population is reported to have increased 31.4% which has considerably changed the area’s landscape.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 39.5% of the city of Las Cruces reported having a language other than English spoken in their home, with 23.9% of the County’s population reported to live below poverty level.
Las Cruces, home to New Mexico State University, hosts a consortium of social service agencies that provides comprehensive services to the local population. The Las Cruces community is close-knit and socially-conscious, boasting a nationally-recognized Farmer’s Market, an active community forum known as “The Great Conversation,” and a wealth of cultural and outdoor activities.
Regional Information: Many people on the borderland (especially the children with which we work) consider themselves tri-lingual. “I speak three languages,”they say. “English, Spanish, and Spanglish!” And, indeed, they do.
The regional cuisine provides opportunities for sampling a variety of dishes. Taste true Mexican foods (just decide your level of spiciness) as well as excellent Southwest dishes. FYI: Be prepared to answer New Mexico’s official state question, “Red or green?” (Which type of chile do you prefer?).
The Chihuahuan Desert climate has very hot summers with little or no humidity and mild, dry winters. As a high desert location, temperatures tend to be warm during the day and cool during the evening hours.
Outdoor activities are plentiful. Mountain ranges (Franklin, Doña Ana, and Organ) have hiking trails, as well as opportunities for over-night camping. North on the Rio Grande, dams provide places for a mixture of beach and lake, which are wonderful for camping or day visits. During the winter season, Cloudcroft and Ruidoso, NM accumulate snow that affords some winter activities. Additional areas of interest in the region include White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and Hueco Tanks.
Both cities host a variety of educational and health care institutions that care for the regions of southern New Mexico and southwest Texas.