Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) SW-Comprehensive Refugee Services program celebrated Welcoming Week with their clients, neighbors and new community partners on Wednesday, September 21, 2016. Welcoming Week is a national initiative of annual events when communities bring together immigrants and U.S. born residents in a spirit of unity to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone – including new Americans.
The SW-Comprehensive Refugee Services in collaboration with Centro Internacional De Avivamiento Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints put on a Community Fun Day that was filled with delicious food, great conversations and games.
“Our neighbor, Centro Internacional, opened their doors to host this event and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said Rosemarie Connor, Director of the SW-Comprehensive Refugee Services Program. “The church helps our clients all year long by preparing hot coffee/tea, breads and pastries for them to eat every Wednesday, our busiest day of the week. When we asked if they would like to participate in Welcoming Week, Pastor Reyes jumped at the opportunity.”
In August, Julie Crowder, Public Affairs representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, attended the Southwest Florida Refugee Task Force meeting to learn more about the issues with refugees and to see how they could become more involved. After meeting with the event organizers, Julie and her team created over 40 gift baskets for the LSF clients, assisted in serving the Community Fun Day meal and sponsored the soccer game after the meal.
Local food and beverage sponsorships played such an important part of the celebration: Pollo Tropical, Famous Dave’s, Chelle’s Special Touch Café, PDQ, Little Caesars, Iguana Mia, Pepsi and WaWa. From grilled chicken, black beans & rice to plantains, pizza and pasta, the smorgasbord of food was set out and everyone ate and dined as a community family.
“We want to be one of the forward thinking communities that recognizes that welcoming New Americans is essential to our country, economically and socially. This country was started by immigrants and it’s that immigrant blood through generations that has made America the melting pot that it is today,” said Rosemarie Conner.
Today, one in four children is an immigrant or child of immigrants. When communities extend the ladder of opportunity to these youth and their families, build bridges between newcomers and long-term residents, and create a culture rooted in our foundational American values of inclusiveness, we forge the next generation of leaders and shape a more prosperous and inclusive future for all Americans.