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LDS Church gives $5 million for refugee resettlement

By Genelle Pugmire special To The Standard-Examiner - | Jun 4, 2021

Latter-day Saint Charities has given millions of dollars in cash, food, medical supplies and services to agencies and countries around the world as well as in the United States over several years.

On Wednesday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the charitable arm of the church will continue its financial support for nine refugee resettlement agencies in the U.S. through a series of grants totaling $5 million in 2021.

The funds are expected to help more than 9,000 refugees and immigrants through some 190 organizations affiliated with the following nine resettlement agencies in the United States:

  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
  • Church World Service
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries
  • Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)
  • World Relief

The grants, which have been distributed for several years, help refugees meet basic living expenses and obtain job skills training. They also help youth with supplemental education training and case management services. Commodities donations include food, hygiene and furniture for newly arrived refugees, according to a church statement

Members of the church have been encouraged to provide assistance to refugees around the world. In October 2015, the First Presidency, the highest governing body of the Church, issued a letter to all Church members encouraging them to provide assistance.

In March 2016, the First Presidency issued a letter to Church members encouraging women of all ages to assist refugees in their own communities. The letter, which outlined the “I Was a Stranger” refugee relief effort, included an invitation from the general women’s auxiliary presidencies of the Church — those who direct the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations — and information about how to get involved.

In its October 27, 2015, letter, the First Presidency told Church members, “It is with great concern and compassion that we observe the plight of the millions of people around the world who have fled their homes seeking relief from civil conflict and other hardships.

Alicia Wrenn, senior director of resettlement and integration with HIAS, said Latter-day Saint Charities “has been an incredible friend and partner” over the years through cash donations and commodities from Deseret Manufacturing and the bishops’ storehouse.

“We have many heartfelt testimonials from our network of this impact, such as messages from clients who are sleeping on a mattress for the first time in their lives or mothers finally getting adequate supplies of diapers,” Wrenn said. “Over and over we see clients feeling a sense of dignity finally receiving and living with basic household commodities.”

Wrenn said most of this year’s cash donation will be used for refugees’ emergency and technology needs.

“We know from the last year during the pandemic, and even through the first signs of recovery from it, how hard it is for clients to slot back into with ease the changed job market,” Wrenn said. “Having a reserve to support those clients who have lingering obstacles to gaining employment with their food needs or rent needs or medical expenses will be life-altering for some clients.”

Megan Bracy, director of refugee and migrant services for LIRS, said the grant will help her organization “rebuild the refugee resettlement program to continue our work of welcome through economic empowerment, community connection, and direct client support, among other services. Over the years, (Latter-day Saint Charities has) helped thousands of refugees find a safe, stable home in the United States — from furnishing apartments for families to supporting refugee mothers struggling to keep food on the table for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. We truly couldn’t do it without them, and we cannot express our thanks enough.”

USCRI will use the donation to help refugees who need immediate financial assistance and job training, said USCRI CEO Eskinder Negash. This includes those impacted by COVID-19, natural disasters, homelessness, mental health challenges and other emergencies, according to church information.

“This generous grant from Latter-day Saint Charities will help us immensely in providing newly resettled refugees with the material assistance and support services they need to launch their new lives here in the U.S.,” Negash said. “This grant means that our new neighbors will receive furnished housing and be connected to benefits and support services including upward mobility support and training.”

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