St. Thomas-Times Journal Tuesday March 1, 2016

The fundraising push is on as the YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin and other community partners set their sights on sponsoring additional Syrian refugee families.
Unite for Refugees, a volunteer coalition supported by YWCA Settlement Services and the St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership, is hoping to raise $75,000 to sponsor at least three more families fleeing violence in their home countries.
The Elgin St. Thomas Community Foundation is responding to the call for financial support by launching a new initiative, the Elgin Welcome Fund, to hand out grants to local charities involved in refugee resettlement.
“This fund is an opportunity to engage the community … in a compassionate response to this humanitarian crisis,” said Karen Laine, executive director of the Elgin St. Thomas Community Foundation.
“Now that we’ve established this welcome fund, we’re reaching out to the community to let them know how they can help too.”
The Elgin Welcome Fund is already off to a strong start. Since it was launched, the fund received a $1,000 boost from foundation board member Kathy Collier and a $5,000 windfall from Doug Tarry Homes. Laine is hoping to spread the word and grow the fund’s bottom line.
“Grants from this fund will be made to support local resettlement projects, any local initiatives will be able to apply for funding,” she noted, adding the Elgin Welcome Fund is intended to support many different local organizations and programs throughout the county.
To date, three privately-sponsored families are living in Elgin county, advised YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin director of education and immigration Shelley Harris. Since the county doesn’t have intensive resettlement programs like bigger cities, it will not be receiving government sponsored refugees.
The St. Thomas-Elgin YWCA and Unite for Refugees are planning two spring events to boost the profile of refugee resettlement in Elgin county.
In June, the YWCA is planning a fun-filled 50s-themed event, Rock’n for Refugees, to raise money for local projects.
“We’re hoping to have a family event. It will be a car show hopefully, with the 1950’s theme. Food tents, things like that, live music and dancing,” said Harris.
The other event, Taste of Syria, will have a more formal atmosphere that focuses on public education and outreach. Guest speakers will give broad details about the Syrian refugee crisis while attendees sample food from the country. No date has been set for the event and more details will be released soon.
Harris said Unite for Refugees is always looking for volunteers and local groups to take up the cause and support newcomers in the community.
“We’re looking for groups of volunteers, clubs or churches who would like to take on their own events,” said Harris.
“They’re contributing hugely to the process as we continue to try to bring a few more families in.”