Human Resources and Nonprofits

Bethany expands refugee services

Resettlement and outreach programs spread in Kalamazoo, Pennsylvania.

July 22, 2016
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Bethany Christian Services’ mission to help refugees knows no state bounds. 

Since 1975, the Grand Rapids-based global nonprofit organization, which provides adoption, child welfare and family preservation services, has resettled about 6,000 adults and children. Now, it’s expanding its refugee services in Kalamazoo and four Pennsylvania cities: Philadelphia, Allentown, Lancaster and Roslyn.

Of the 43 million people forcibly displaced from their homes worldwide, 41 percent are children, said Bill Blacquiere, Bethany’s president and CEO, adding that “Bethany’s heart is for children.”

“We are currently facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, and we hope America continues its legacy of welcoming refugees. Refugees add a beautiful diversity to our community,” said Jennifer Gradnigo, Bethany’s director of public relations. 

“They are great employees who work hard, pay taxes and eventually buy homes and start businesses. Christ’s love compels us to welcome the orphan, widow and stranger. The U.S. has a rich history of welcoming refugees, and Bethany has been welcoming refugees since the 1960s.”

Bethany’s expansion to Kalamazoo and Pennsylvania creates permanent refugee programs for its organization. Resettlement costs Bethany about $250,000 a year from donations for each state’s programs, Gradnigo said. 

“We rely heavily on our community partnerships to help our new neighbors acclimate to a new culture,” said Dona Abbott, director of Bethany’s refugee resettlement services. “There are many ways to become involved and support families and unaccompanied children adjusting to their new life in our country.”

In Michigan, Bethany has partnered with local churches and community agencies to develop its Kalamazoo office, 6687 Seeco Drive. That office is now serving refugee and immigrant families and individuals.

Specifically, Bethany will run two programs in Michigan, Gradnigo said:

  • Refugee foster care for youths separated from their families by war, abuse or community violence. They are typically ages 13-17. Approximately 60 percent are male, and most are from African and Central American countries.
  • Refugee resettlement and church co-sponsorship for refugees, who cannot return to their homeland because of fear of persecution due to race, religion or political conflicts. Working with Bethany, church partners can serve refugees, create a welcoming community and help families gain independence.

In Pennsylvania, all four locations in the four cities are open and helping refugees with services like assistance in finding living arrangements, employment, child care, schooling, medical resources and foster homes for unaccompanied refugee children.

“We have offices, or have opened offices, in these locations so as to be accessible to the refugees we seek to serve, and we’ll be working with community partners in those cities,” Gradnigo said. 

“As with our Michigan programs, we will help refugees acclimate to a new community and language, along with employment, child care/education, housing and health care assistance.”

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