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World Relief rallies people to welcome Afghans

Volunteers help pack Welcome Kits at World Relief office.

Sharing how community members are helping welcome newly arriving Afghan refugees into the region, Mark Finney, executive director of World Relief Spokane, said, "It takes an entire community to resettle refugees."

World Relief Spokane is gearing up to receive 300 Afghan refugees.

"We thank everyone who has donated financially and given items for those arriving with nothing to be welcomed with open arms and provided a furnished apartment," said Mark

On the community's capacity, Mark said there are "tons of jobs, with employers begging for more people to join the workforce, so refugees help businesses who need employees.

In employment, he said Afghan refugees often gravitate to the hospitality industry—hotel, restaurant and food service. They also fill security, IT or medical tech nursing positions.

"Through our contract with the federal government, we are receiving Afghan refugees. Having assessed the community capacity, we have resources to provide this welcome," he said. "This is a national and international crisis. Spokane can make a difference and welcome Afghan allies because it is the right thing to do."

As of Oct. 20, 30 arrived, including about 10 in multigenerational families, single adults and unaccompanied minors, who Lutheran Community Services Northwest helps.

World Relief seeks solutions to some "good" problems. Donated household items fill their warehouse. They are clearing their basement for more storage space. They are not taking big items. A new resource coordinator is managing donations.

World Relief is helping house individuals and families, either with relatives who were already here, or as individual landlords, property managers and congregations offer housing.

They seek housing for 100 people a month through Dec. 31.

"Housing is the challenge. I'm confident the community will help us find housing. We are looking to partner with people who want to rent extra apartments or vacant houses and want to bring them onto the market for this cause," said Mark.

Funds through donations and fund drives are needed, because federal funds only help in the first 90 days after arrival. Long-term funds help with emergency housing relief and staff support, such as a new housing coordinator.

Youth groups and churches can do individual fund raising activities, such as car washes or raking leaves for neighbors to raise funds, he suggested.

Congregations, businesses, scouts and individuals can put together Welcome Kits, for families with items listed on the World Relief website.

Several faith communities are partnering.

• Congregation Emanu-el, Emmaus Church and Bethany Presbyterian will help with housing.

• Colbert Presbyterian is doing a winter coat and car seat drive.

• Life Center is offering a Refugee Youth Program.

• Emmanuel Church, Summit Church and First Presbyterian are providing volunteers.

•Shadle Park Presbyterian, whose youth did a Tennis Tournament fund raiser, shares its building with an Afghan Jafaria Shia Muslim community.

World Relief is partnering with Global Neighborhood Thrift to handle clothing donations. Refugees will be able to choose clothing there. Global Neighborhood will give shopping vouchers and let refugees shop in there for free, providing the dignity of choosing what they want. Those with clothing for refugees may take it to Global Neighborhood Thrift at 919 E. Trent Ave.

Another opportunity is to participate in World Relief virtual fund-raising gala, "Around the Table," on Tuesday, Dec. 7

World Relief's Friendship Center in their office building, 1222 N. Washington, is currently closed. World Relief hopes to open it when it's feasible, based on COVID numbers, which are high. Because many volunteers are retirees, who are at higher risk, there is need for volunteers from partners and churches.

"Social services also have the capacity to help people, as do ESL programs," said Mark.

For ESL support for adults, World Relief works with Community Colleges of Spokane and Barton School. Other ESL supports include District 81's English Language Learners department for school children. World Relief makes sure students are enrolled in school and receive that support.

While World Relief is a Christian-based organization, it appreciates that resettling refugees "is an effort across the length and breadth of the community that includes people of Islamic, Jewish, other faiths or no faiths, pulling together for this cause," he said.

"It is a matter of our core humanity that we are compelled to share and be part of this regardless of our faith tradition," said Mark.

"We have an incredible outpouring of support from city and national elected officials, creating a unified front pulling together as a community," he said.

For information, call 509-484-9829, email or visit

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November, 2021