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Seattle-raised Beth Toomey appreciates the unique flavor of her city's many different neighborhoods and knows them well. A year spent in France fueled her love of architecture, eventually sparking her foray into real estate after a 20-year career in sales and marketing for Fortune 500 companies. Beth's second act flourished; her professional credentials and loyal Seattle and Eastside clientele grew impressively.
Crossing boundaries and leading with empathy are the ties that continuously bind Beth's personal and professional pursuits. Few know that Beth was elected to the national Alumni Board for the University of Notre Dame and, two years later, served as its President (the first woman to hold that position – despite the University having been co-ed for 25 years by that time!) and a two-year term on its Board of Trustees. She's also rightfully proud to have helped start Notre Dame's women's soccer program. But Beth's passion to serve has gone well beyond the Blue and Gold; it extends all the way to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Two years ago, Beth had an opportunity to learn firsthand about the situation at the border through St. Joseph's Church on Capitol Hill, a Jesuit parish where she attended grade school and church for most of her adult life. When she learned she could participate in a Kino Border Initiative (KBI) delegation at the Nogales, Arizona/Mexican border in the fall of 2019, Beth jumped at it. She was so compelled by her first KBI experience, she will be leading another delegation this coming November.
"It was a transformational experience to work with these beautiful families, as they were stuck in limbo at the border waiting for their turn to seek asylum or refugee status. It was powerful," she said. "Hearing the brutal stories was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life; so many of the men either disappear or are killed if they do not obey the cartels. One wants to think these are stories out of a Tom Clancy book, but this is their reality."
The Kino Border Initiative is a binational organization that works in migration and is located in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. The KBI's vision is to help make humane, just, workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico a reality. The goals of the trip are to:
KINO serves two meals a day at its kitchen hub, the "Comedor," where migrant families wait patiently for meals in a long line that snakes around the block. Beth explained that delegation members take shifts either outside playing with the children, or inside serving meals.
"The children are clean, mostly happy and eager to learn; I spent hours with picture books, pointing to pictures and the kids would shout out the names of animals in Spanish," Beth said. "A young Mom sat down to listen and pointed at the picture asking for the animal's name in English, and from that, impromptu English lessons began on the curb."
Beth was deeply moved by the KBI immersive experiences: Touring a safe house, watching courtroom proceedings, seeing masses of shackled men being deported back to Mexico, and hearing firsthand border stories from ranchers and migrant conversations. KBI participants also took a desert hike that replicated the trail that desperate refugees traverse while trying to get to America.
Through Beth's own volunteerism, she lends a voice to this organization and to all of the courageous people who are fleeing violence, persecution and seeking better lives for their families in America, hoping to one day also call this country home. She also appreciates what it means to establish a home from an entirely different perspective.