Household items, donations 'desperately needed' for incoming refugees
Pictured: Mattresses are ready for delivery to the newest arrivals being aided by the diocese's Refugee Resettlement Office. (Photo provided by Sandy Buck)
CHARLOTTE — There is a steady stream of refugees fleeing some of the poorest and most dangerous places on earth and coming here to the Diocese of Charlotte, where they can be welcomed and provided a safe, stable place to begin new lives. When these refugees step off the plane at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Catholic Social Services' Refugee Resettlement Office is there to welcome them with open arms. And now, the RRO needs your help.
"We currently are in desperate need of assistance getting apartments ready for refugee clients," says RRO director Cira Ponce. "Five families came in the last 10 days and we have no more sofas and dining room sets left. We need help from the community."
As part of an array of services provided to these refugees when they are resettled in Charlotte, the RRO prepares a furnished apartment for each family. Refugees flee their country of origin, usually to a neighboring country, because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political beliefs or membership in a particular social group. Most of the refugees resettled by the diocese's refugee office come from camps where they have waited months or even years to be granted refugee status and receive the opportunity for resettlement to a place where they can live safely, in peace and without threat from persecution. They come to Charlotte as part of a partnership between the U.S. bishops and other religious groups and the U.S. State Department.
The RRO depends almost completely on donations so that the staff can set up furnished apartments for these new refugees. Why? Refugees usually arrive in Charlotte with few, if any, personal belongings.
Having resettled 355 refugees since last October (76 families and 93 individuals), the program is in constant need of household furnishings – everything from basic furniture to silverware and dishes, towels, sheets, cleaning supplies, pretty much anything one needs to set up a first home.
"We greatly appreciate the donors who have called us with a sofa or kitchen table to donate, or a box of household items," says Sandy Buck, CSS volunteer coordinator for the Charlotte area. "But it is hard with individual donations of furniture to keep up with demand. In the month of September alone, we had 61 arrivals! That means we needed 25 sofas and 25 kitchen tables, not to mention bedding and mattresses for maybe 45 beds, and then 61 spoons, forks, knives, cups, plates... There is a lot that goes into getting an apartment ready."
For this reason, the RRO is looking at other ways to encourage donations and volunteer involvement in this effort to welcome these refugees.
Notes Ponce, "We are always in need of cash donations, which then allow us greater flexibility in providing those items not usually donated. For instance, we provide rice cookers and vacuum cleaners in the apartments, and these are items we can use monetary donations to purchase."
"We have a list of items that are required for each apartment on the CSS website," Buck adds.
"Interested persons can use that list to do their own shopping on our behalf and then donate to us a new set of dishes, or pots and pans, or sheets or towels. Individuals can even host donation drives within groups to which they belong, collecting new bed pillows for the RRO or sets of towels for the bath or kitchen, or alarm clocks or personal care items," she suggests.
The RRO is also seeking groups to sponsor apartment set-ups, and in this way commit to locating, gathering and putting in place the furnishings, household items, beds, linens and all the other essentials for a two- or three-bedroom apartment for refugees when they arrive.
Several Charlotte area parishes have sponsored such apartment set-ups, soliciting donations of new and gently-used items from parishioners to start from scratch and provide everything a newly-established household would need to function effectively.
For parishes interested in this type of assistance, the RRO provides an "Apartment Sponsorship" packet on the CSS website.
"Our main objective in apartment set-up," Ponce says, "is to provide a comfortable place for our families to land and feel welcomed. They are weary, missing family and friends, and we want to give them enough of the basics that they can focus on the task of integrating into their new community and settling in to their new lives here."
"We need 10 groups to each step forward and commit to sponsoring an apartment before the end of this year," Buck notes. "Our work is never done because we always have new arrivals coming."
— Tracy Winsor, special to the Catholic News Herald
Editor's note: This is part of an ongoing series of articles showcasing how the faithful of the Diocese of Charlotte welcome and support refugees through Catholic Social Services' Refugee Resettlement Office, which has helped nearly 11,000 refugees from 27 different nationalities since 1975.
How can you help?
More information about the needs of the diocesan refugee office and opportunities for volunteering is at the Catholic Social Services' website: www.cssnc.org. There you will find detailed information about apartment sponsorship under the "Volunteer in Charlotte" tab. Furniture pick-up is available. Monetary donations can also be sent to Catholic Social Services Refugee Office, 1123 S. Church St., Charlotte, N.C. 28203.
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy