LDS Church Steps Up to Aid Refugees

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Kristy McDonough
ksmcdonough89@lorettafulton

During the month of December 2021, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, primarily youth, collected brand new and much needed household supplies for local refugees. Their efforts were aided by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Abilene.

After the gifts and supplies were collected, church youth members gathered in small groups to wrap, label, and organize the 147 gifts for the local refugees. Items donated included essential household items, clothing, bicycles, and gift cards. The gifts were distributed to more than 39 individuals recently arriving from Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Overall, the total value of the gifts provided was approximately $5,700. It is also estimated that approximately 182 volunteer hours were given. 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 $10,000 in benefits available toward the federal program. In total, including the matched funds, the families will receive approximately $20,000 in Christmas gifts and funding. Susanna Lubanga, deputy director of the International Rescue Committee in Abilene, praised the local congregation for the donation.

“Part of what makes resettlement successful in Abilene and in communities around the country, is the support refugees and other vulnerable populations receive from the Abilene Community at large,” Lubanga said. “Resettlement is truly a partnership between the resettled refugee, the IRC, and our community partners and volunteers.”

Photos courtesy Kristy McDonough

The funds ensure that refugees have assistance for the first four to six months and can become self-sufficient in their new homes, Lubanga said. The total in-kind contribution by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints totaled nearly $10,000, which will benefit about 10 refugees in Abilene.

“The IRC is grateful to the local congregation and their heart in being the hands and feet of Jesus to our new neighbors,” Lubanga said.

Brian Sorensen, a communication specialist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Abilene touted the local effort.

“This was the second year partnering with the IRC on the ‘Home for the Holidays’ project,” Sorensen said. “We are grateful to the IRC for the opportunity to connect with our local refugee community at such a special and unique time.”

Refugees come from difficult circumstances to a new environment with very little, Sorensen noted, and it was rewarding for the church to assist them.

“It was a meaningful experience for our members to serve,” Sorensen said, “and we hope that the project has helped our new refugee neighbors receive a safe, warm welcome to Abilene.”

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