ARLINGTON, Virginia — With a recent gift totaling $600,000 in cash and commodities, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is expressing appreciation to the LDS Church for its combined, two-year $1.2 million contribution of money and in-kind donations.
“At a time of our greatest need for support, we are grateful to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all its members for remembering those in need, specifically the refugees and immigrants we service,” said Eskinder Negash, USCRI’s acting chief executive officer in a new release this week.
“We will make good use of these resources to welcome the stranger and help our clients to seek new opportunities and rebuild their lives.”
For more than a century, the national organization has helped those in forced or voluntary migration worldwide by seeking to protect their rights, aid in their transitions and temper their vulnerabilities.
“As a church, we consider the care of the poor and needy to be central to our faith,” said Steven K. Peterson, managing director of the church’s Welfare Department. “We desire to join our resources with those of other charitable organizations to extend the collective impact of our efforts.”
He added that the contribution is made possible thanks to the individual donations of thousands of LDS Church members and friends “in response to an invitation to give generously for the relief of the growing numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons across the world.”
One recent direct partnership between church members and the refuguee agency happened last winter in Cleveland, Ohio, where Latter-day Saints helped provide warm coats and appropriate winter gear for newly settled refugees, many having come from desert climates.
Members of the LDS Church’s Cleveland Stake noticed needs listed on the church’s JustServe.org website compiling available community service projects.
They then worked with the Cleveland field office of the committee for refugees to create a “Warm Coat and Blanket Drive” effort, putting collection boxes in local LDS meetinghouses beginning in November 2016 for new and gently used hats, gloves, scarves, blankets and coats. The response was so great that collection boxes were full halfway through the drive, requiring organizers to schedule an early collection of items to accommodate donations coming through mid-December.
On Dec. 17, church volunteers and refugee committee workers sorted all items donated from the drive as well as other from other community sources, Coats for Kids and the LDS Church’s humanitarian aid organization. In all, nearly 900 coats, 500 jackets and 170 blankets were collected, along with 1,600 hats, gloves and scarfs.
Some items were immediately distributed by volunteers to homes of settled refugees and immigrants, with the recipients including 340 individuals and 58 households. Additional donated items were retained to aid the 450 additional people expected to resettle in Cleveland throughout the 2017 calendar year.