By LANCE CRANMER firstname.lastname@example.org
WAVERLY, Ohio – It’s not unusual for Melanie Williams to get phone calls from individuals interested in making donations to her organization, Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). Especially in the months since the crisis in Syria has sent thousands of refugees leaving their homeland and looking to find asylum across Europe.
But when a large senior community contacted CRIS the way the residents at Bristol Village did, that was different.
“It’s very unique,” said Williams, the organization’s Resource Developer and Volunteer Manager. “Typically we get church congregations and different community groups occasionally wanting to chip in and help. But this is a pretty unique group.”
Williams said the Bristol Village residents contacted her at the CRIS office in Columbus and initially wanted to sponsor a refugee family. She, however, suggested a way the residents could help multiple families in need.
“I suggested they could donate Welcome Kit items. The household things that every new arrival gets,” she said. “Providing those for a family really off-sets the costs for them coming to the United States.”
The result of that has turned into the Bristol Village Appeal, a philanthropic drive set up by the Bristol Village residents to collect both monetary and goods donations to help refugees coming to Ohio.
“I provided some ideas and they’ve really run with it,” said Williams.
“We’ve all been watching what’s been happening to the refugees on TV,” said Diana Nasman, a Bristol Village resident and one of the organizers of the appeal. “Many folks here were familiar with the Church World Services and through them I was able to track down CRIS. I got on the phone and called a lot of people.”
Throughout October, the Bristol Village Appeal has been collecting donations of kitchen, bathroom and bedroom items in donation boxes in the Bristol Village Activity Center. There has also been a bank account set up through the FNB Bank location at Bristol Village.
“We’ve already gotten a lot of boxes,” said Nasman. “We’ve been getting a lot of donations from our residents here.
“We’ve also been reaching out to some of the area churches, but it’s Bristol Village that does the packing and transportation.”
The appeal runs through October 30 and is not only limited to residents of Bristol Village. Nasman said that anyone who wishes to make a contribution to the Bristol Village effort is welcome.
Once the donations have been gathered, they are passed on to CRIS, which uses them to help refugees that have come to Ohio.
“We provide certain core services to newly arriving refugees for their first 90 days in the US,” said Williams. “This includes finding them housing, providing necessary household items. We help them apply for Social Security, enroll in schools, apply for government benefits and enroll in employment readiness classes. The goal is self-sufficiency.”
To make a donation to the Bristol Village Appeal, contact Diana Nasman at (740) 947-4109, Evelyn Baker at (740) 947-9370 or Norma Dupire at (740) 912-9551.
Checks may also be mailed to:
Community Refugee and Immigration Services
Attn: Melanie Williams
1925 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Suite 102
Columbus, OH 43299