By Jon Coker
Many people take on a second job to support one child, but a woman in Piedras Negras, Mexico, has given up her only job to feed hundreds. Irma Gonzalez, 50, has devoted herself to the needy children of the community, and students at this college have a chance to help make a difference.“There’s over 600 kids in the area, and they all come here when it’s time to eat,” Gonzalez said. Better known to volunteers as “Irma at the tracks,” Gonzalez lives in a desolate neighborhood near train tracks. She lives in a small, broken down shack with no windows and no running water. The floor inside is made of unbalanced planks held together by mud. “The government owns all the property along the railroad tracks,” English Lecturer Paul Perry explained. “They have full control of that area, but were generous enough to let Irma and her neighbors live there.” Perry said Gonzales depends solely on donations provided by various groups of volunteers that visit her, such as the Alamo Heights Methodist Church group and the Cross-Health Ministries, a San Antonio-based outreach program of which Perry is a member. Perry explained Gonzalez was working at a factory a year ago when she realized her calling to the “niños” of the neighborhood. He said one day while she was eating lunch, a little girl came to join her. Soon, children were coming from all over for lunch. She started to bring enough food to feed every mouth and eventually took a leap of faith and quit her job to support the children of the community. “Keeping control is rough sometimes, and I think to myself, What am I going to do? Sometimes, my brothers will help me for money and I have some American groups helping me,” Gonzalez said in Spanish. The children go to school from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a nearby church, Aleluyah Iglesia Metodista. Before and after class, Gonzalez toils in a makeshift kitchen. “I always need rice, cereal, milk and Maseca for tortillas. Now, the weather is getting colder so I’ll need jackets and shoes for the little ones,” she said.