LDS Members Provide Gifts for Refugees
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Local and area members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made sure the “First Christmas in Abilene” was one to remember for refugees who are resettled in Abilene through the International Rescue Committee.
LDS members, primarily youths, collected brand new and much needed household supplies for refugees during December. The project, facilitated by church members in Abilene, San Angelo, Eastland, Brownwood, Brady, and Sweetwater, was dubbed, “First Christmas in Abilene.” After the gifts and supplies were collected, church youth members gathered in small groups, wearing masks to protect against the spreading of coronavirus, to wrap, label, and organize the over 200 gifts for the local refugees. The list of gifts needed were: shoes, all types of clothing, vacuum cleaners, pots and pans, various types of household items, toys, and gift cards.
Overall, the total value of the gifts provided was approximately $4,000. Approximately 150 volunteer hours went into the effort. Thanks to a federal matching program providing $2 for every $1 in kind contributed by the community (including volunteer hours valued at $24 per hour) this project provided local refugees with approximately $7,600 in benefits available toward the federal program. In total, including the matched funds, the families received $14,000 in Christmas gifts and funding.
Nine individuals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania were fully provided for, as well as other local refugee families. Jen Rogers, Community Engagement Supervisor of the International Rescue Committee in Abilene said, “Community donations and volunteer time are much needed to ensure continuation of the IRC Abilene’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within Department of Health and Human Services funded match grant program.”
The program, Rogers said, requires a $1 contribution from the community for each $2 received in ORR funding. The money ensures that refugees receive short term assistance as they settle and help in finding employment and gaining self-sufficiency.
Brian Sorensen, a Communication Specialist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Abilene, said church members were grateful for the opportunity to connect with the local refugees.
“The project was meaningful for all involved,” Sorensen said, “bringing a bit of Christmas joy to the recently arrived refugee families as well as the volunteers.”