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Shalom Richland opts to connect donors with needs

Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland has found a niche to support and welcome Afghan refugees since October.

Volunteers load furniture for Afghan refugees in Tri-Cities. Photos courtesy of Shalom UCC Richland

“We did not adopt a family but recognized there was a need to coordinate donations,” said Marsha Stipe of the Mission and Social Action Committee and the Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition.

Shalom’s church secretary, Lauralee Sorenson, developed a spread sheet of items and services that matches people in the church and community who offer items and services with Afghan refugees who have those specific needs.

The services and needs include furniture, bedding, household items, clothing, gift certificates, English tutoring and or transportation to buy coats, grocery shop or go to a prayer service.

The first four families came Richland in September. Then seven families came Nov. 16 and four by Dec. 20. Two individuals came in January.

The families range in size from one man to a family of 12, a mother, father and their 10 children. The children range in age from newborns to 18 years. Most families have young children.

To date, 17 Afghan families with 75 individuals have arrived in the Tri-Cities through World Relief, which had cut back its capacity and staff under the previous administration.

World Relief resettled 16 families in 2020 and now have more than 100—including refugees from other countries. Marsha said they have been working to hire staff.

“Having the spreadsheet has allowed us to match items and services to needs without stock piling items at the church or giving unneeded items to families,” said Marsha.

People can email or call the information to the church office. Ppotential donations are entered onto the spread sheet then matched with families’ needs. 

Two members have volunteered to teach English classes at the Family Learning Center.

In addition, through its Mission and Social Action Committee, Shalom UCC has donated $500 to the Family Learning Center for English Workbooks and Oxford picture dictionaries.

“These items make a difference for the new families in learning English, but are difficult for them to afford,” she said. “The people receiving these books were thrilled and thankful. Each book has a bookplate noting Shalom’s contribution.

Shalom UCC works with Tri-Cities Afghan Resettlement, which was started by Sabiha Khan, a member of the Islamic Center of Tri Cities.

Originally Sabiha planned collect donations. Then Shalom suggested it would manage the exchange of goods and services.

“Our members started with helping deliver furniture and items to newly arrived families,” Marsha said.

Marsha has begun to know families by going on home visits with Sabiha, who is from Pakistan and speaks some Urdu. Over tea they find out a family’s needs.

One need she discovered was for big bowls for the women to mix the big, round flat bread they eat at every meal. The church had big bowls it wasn’t using.

The Mid-Columbia Altrusa Club donated $50 gift cards for each person. Marsha and Sabiha take them to people.

When families first come, they stay in a hotel. One family was in a hotel for a month and did not have food, so the gift cards helped them buy food.

“Our church members just work with families as they need it, rather than adopting one family,” she said.

With a large Ukrainian population in the Tri-Cities and plans to resettle 100,000 Ukrainians in the U.S., primarily with families, Marsha is aware attention may turn from Afghani to Ukrainian refugees.

From conversations with Irene Hassan the national UCC minister for refugee and migrant ministry, Global HOPE (Humanitarian Opportunities for Progress and Empowerment), Marsha knows of concern that attention may shift.

For information, call 541-720-0131 or email


Pacific NW Conference United Church News - © April 2022


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