Border kids

Daylena Gilbert and her son Lucien, 4, at their kitchen table.

GRAYSON A  Grayson woman and some of her friends are forming a grass-roots group they hope can assist — or at least bring attention to — the plight of children confined by U.S. authorities after crossing the U.S. border with Mexico.

Daylena Gilbert has brought about 40 people into the group, which she says is non-partisan and will remain so.

Exactly what the group can do to help children remains unclear, and Gilbert said it remains in the organizing phase and is seeking more members.

She has explored the notion of sending packages of hygiene products, food, first aid, clothes and comfort items but is unsure how to do that.

In short, all she is really sure of is that children need help and she wants to provide it.

“The kids are here and they need care. The government needs to accept that there are people willing to give,” she said.

“We are all people who care about how children are being treated. We’re not about politics,” she said.

Members may have partisan sympathies but keep them under wraps for purposes of the group, she said. Some are religious and some are non-religious — Gilbert is a Baptist —  some are pro-choice and some are anti-abortion — Gilbert describes herself as leaning pro-life — some are Republican and some are Democrats — Gilbert did not claim party affiliation in an interview.

Gilbert has two young sons of her own and cares for several other children who are part of her extended family.

She formed the group, which is called Children First A Community Action Group and has a Facebook page under that name, after seeing news reports of children being held by the U.S. Border Patrol under conditions described as cold, dirty, unsafe and lacking adequate food and other necessities.

Whether U.S. authorities were prepared for an influx of children or not does not excuse them from the responsibility of adequate care, she says.

“I was sickened to my core by the issue of kids being detained and thier quality of life. I was moved so much that I knew if I didn’t do something I would have been disappointed with myself,” Gilbert wrote in an email after an interview with a reporter.

She has canvassed her neighborhood and passed out leaflets to bring attention to the situation. She placed some of them under windshields of church buses and hopes church groups will take up the cause.

She has contacted area lawmakers to see if they can help her.

She finds support in the Bible for her efforts, including a verse from Leviticus: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

There is also a verse in Psalm 82 she cites —  “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.”

She mainly hopes more people will join her group, which is non-profit, and help her give it direction and specific goals.

“I want us to be positive, not a spectacle, not demonstrators. Subtle can be more a statement than holding signs. We the people can be the push,” she said.

(606) 326-2652 |

Mike James is The Independent's education reporter. He has covered news in Northeast Kentucky since 1996.