On June 6, over 20 St. John’s parishioners gathered at Melanie Folstad’s residence to hear from representatives of neighboring faith communities who are mentoring and sponsoring refugee families through the Lutheran Social Services Good Neighbor Program. Susan Price from Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church and Karen Green of Temple Shalom, who are currently leading their communities in mentoring/sponsoring refugee families, were enthusiastic and inspiring: the experience, they said, built new connections and engaged new potential for service within their communities while not imposing on budgets, and provided invaluable assistance to families fleeing oppression, violence and poverty.
Following this presentation, seven St. John’s parishioners attended an in-depth briefing by Lutheran Social Services on its Good Neighbor Program for sponsoring refugees on June 13. The LSS team explained in detail the need (they have re-settled over 1,000 refugees this year with just a handful of volunteers), what is required to help and how they work with faith communities to provide crucial support to newly arriving refugees.
We are now at a juncture for St. John’s to prayerfully consider how to move forward.
Up to this point, St. John’s has participated at the ‘Level 4’ level of support, which is limited to furnishing and equipping an apartment. Experience suggests we are comfortable with continuing to provide that level of support. The question, then, is whether we would like to take the next step: to engage with a refugee family in a mentorship capacity. ‘Level 3’ means making a six month commitment to provide specific forms of mentorship, as agreed with LSS. ‘Level 2’ requires a commitment to furnish an apartment and provide specific forms of mentoring for six months. ‘Level 1’ requires a commitment to find housing (which offers the possibility of locating it near St. John’s) and a commitment to assist the family for 12 months with mentoring and a limited financial subsidy for housing.
To ascertain whether we are interested/able to move to level 2 or 1, we need to identify individuals who can serve as ‘team leaders’ to oversee teams providing specific areas of support. LSS has identified seven key leadership roles that help to provide a smooth transition and ensure that no one person carries too much of the load. A robust description of what is required in each of the seven areas is detailed on the 4th Attachment (“Good Neighbor Team Committee Assignments”) in the LSS presentation. In short, in addition to a General Coordinator, we would need volunteers to lead each of the following teams:
- Employment Team
- Food & Clothing Team
- Finance Team
- Housing & Furnishing Team
- Transportation Team
- Welcome Team
So, where do we go from here?
We plan to reconvene at Melanie Folstad’s house on Tuesday, July 11 at 6:30 pm to continue this discussion. We invite those interested in volunteering to lead or serve on refugee support teams to join us in discussing next steps. We hope to see you there – please let Anne Derse and Melanie Folstad know if you will attend!