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LDS church partners with refugee resettlement groups

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placeholder April 3, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA

Representatives from agencies assisting in refugee resettlement toured the Bishops' Storehouse in Concord.

LDS church partners with refugee resettlement groups

Leaders from four organizations that serve refugees — Catholic Charities of the East Bay, the International Rescue Committee, Jewish Family Service and No One Left Behind — gathered around one table on the rainy first day of spring at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Concord with one mission in mind: how to help the refugees.

It's a humanitarian effort on the part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Marilyn Wright, who has been called to be the refugee resettlement coordinator in Northern California.

Sister Elisabeth Lang, OP, of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, and Elder Jay Pimentel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Mormon leadership opened the doors to the Bishops' Storehouse to their visitors, and told them how to gain access to food and supplies for the refugee families they serve.

The local LDS bishops authorize provision of the food to families facing emergencies and to the greater community in times of disasters. The local bishops can make food available to the refugee families, through the service agencies.

In addition to rows of metal shelves neatly arranged with boxes of canned goods and paper products — not unlike what might be found at the nearby Costco — the storehouse has access to furniture made by the church-owned Deseret Industries.

Representatives from Catholic Charities of the East Bay were already familiar with the contents, as well as the generosity.

"We feel very supported in our partnership," said Sister Elisabeth Lang, OP, director of refugee programs at Catholic Charities.

She offered an example of that support. On Dec. 23 — a Friday, two days before Christmas 2016 — Sister Elisabeth sent an online request for furniture for a refugee family the agency was resettling. The father of the family had worked as a translator for the United States military in Afghanistan.

The day after Christmas, Wright and an army of volunteers were loading new furniture onto trucks for delivery to the family. And that was just the beginning. Volunteers also offered to help mentor the family in the transition to life in the Bay Area.

Additionally, the LDS employment services are offering to assist the refugees in their search for jobs.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is making $15 million worldwide available to resettlement agencies, with $5 million going to agencies in the United States. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced last August that it would be receiving $1.25 million in cash and donated food and goods that will be used to assist newly arrived refugees, through 80 affiliated diocesan resettlement offices throughout the country.

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