Philip Kellerman Harvests Hope for Migrant Workers
There are more than a million migrant farmworkers in this country, but they are an invisible population, living and working in extremely rural areas that most of us never see.
“They’re also one of the poorest groups in our nation, yet we depend on them for most of the fruits and vegetables we buy in our supermarkets,” says Philip Kellerman (B.S. ’77).
A little over four years ago, Kellerman established the Harvest of Hope Foundation—the first national foundation dedicated to helping migrant farmworkers and their families. Launched with only $46, the foundation today has raised more than $130,000 and helped more than 850 migrant families.
It all began with a telephone call.
Kellerman, a former school teacher, had been working for a U.S. Department of Education program that helped the children of migrant workers continue their education. The program had created a toll-free national hotline number to further assist the migrant workers.
“We thought that if we had one nationwide number for people to call, it would make it easier for them to enroll their children in school wherever they traveled,” Kellerman recalls. “On the third day, I got a call from a migrant family from Texas whose truck had broken down in Owatonna, Minnesota. They needed $262 to fix the transmission or they’d be stranded, and unable to get to the next fields where they could find work. “That’s when I discovered that there was no national foundation to help them,” he continues. “So the entire staff pitched in, and we started building a fund to handle these types of emergencies.”
A year later, Kellerman’s grandmother passed away, leaving him a small inheritance that he used to cover the start-up costs of the foundation.
“She was a social worker for 20 years and an advocate for the poor. Harvest of Hope is dedicated in her honor,” says Kellerman, who is still the foundation’s only employee and receives no salary.
“You don’t get many opportunities in life to do things that make a real difference,” he says. “I feel fortunate that I was in the right place at the right time.”
From the Miami Magazine, the University of Miami’s alumni magazine, volume 9, no. 1, Fall 2001, p. 60, from http://www.miami.edu/miami-magazine/fall01/classnotes.html#pk.