Latter-day Saint Charities helping refugees in the U.S. navigate 2020’s challenges

The Church’s ongoing support of nine resettlement agencies in the United States continued in 2020 — an unforgettable year when assistance was severely needed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, Latter-day Saint Charities provided “substantial grants” to the nine agencies. Such support from the humanitarian arm of the Church provided refugees with money for rent, medical and other expenses — as well as greater access to household supplies, food and hygiene items, according to a Newsroom report released Wednesday.

Latter-day Saint Charities grants in 2020 have provided food and financial support to more than 10,600 refugees and immigrants through 142 offices nationwide. Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 beds have been distributed from the Church’s Deseret Manufacturing. 

The nine resettlement agencies include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, International Rescue Committee, U.S. Committee for Refugee and Immigrants, Church World Service, HIAS, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) and World Relief.  

No surprise, the past year has been especially difficult for many refugees in the United States.

“Many refugee and asylum-seeking families, including those who have been in the U.S. for some time, work in industries hardest hit by the pandemic such as hospitality and food service. Some were suddenly unable to work and struggled to put food on the table,” said Kelly Ricculli, deputy director of development for resettlement, asylum and integration at the International Rescue Committee.

The Church's long-standing commitment to helping refugee families is evident in their ongoing support of refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. In 2020, Latter-day Saint Charities supported several such agencies to assist with needs during the ongoing pandemic.
The Church’s long-standing commitment to helping refugee families is evident in their ongoing support of refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. In 2020, Latter-day Saint Charities supported several such agencies to assist with needs during the ongoing pandemic. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Ricculli’s organization reports that grocery commodities were an important contribution for families, especially for those who suffered recent job loss but who had a difficult time getting reapproved for food stamps in cities such as Atlanta and Seattle. 

The Latter-day Saint Charities grants to the resettlement agencies also help support refugees with workforce training, digital literacy, community engagement and emergency funding, according to Newsroom.

Last year, Sister Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the Church’s Relief Society general presidency, visited several resettlement agencies in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

“As followers of Jesus Christ, we are under a heavenly obligation to love God and love our neighbors in better ways,” said Sister Eubank following her visits.

The ongoing partnership between the Church and the resettlement agencies, she added, “is meant to accelerate the work and highlight ways families can get involved in helping refugee neighbors settle into a new place.”

The Church has long-supported refugee communities throughout the world. And many Latter-day Saints know the pain of fleeing their native lands to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. In a recent Facebook post, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote living through World War II and a divided Germany.

“I was a refugee twice…. But throughout all of that, I relied on my firm belief that there is a God in heaven, there is a Jesus Christ, there is a Holy Ghost, and there is a restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” wrote Elder Uchtorf.

Helping improve the lives of families and individuals at a time defined by hardship and uncertainty is at the heart of the Church’s ongoing support for the U.S. refugee agencies. 

For example, the financial assistance from a Latter-day Saint Charities grant allowed a Sudanese single mother in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to pay her rent and utilities while searching for employment. 

She was also able to address health issues within her family and receive training on digital literacy and U.S. culture.

“Despite navigating through unprecedented times, [this mother] has overcome these unique challenges and secured meaningful employment where she is paid a living wage so that she is able to financially support her family,” Demetrio Alvero, director of operations for Episcopal Migration Ministries, told Newsroom. 

In Arlington, Virginia, the Church’s Deseret Industries fund helped furnish homes for large families resettling in the area. 

“Saving families this money enables our affiliate to assist families longer, and it gives families more time to find employment and generally settle into their new home while still being financially supported,” said Carolyn Lamer, associate director of reception and placement from the ECDC.