by Paula Roetscher
Multiculturalism, religious diversity, integration of immigrants, strong bonds between newcomers and long-term residents and positivity towards refugees — these are just some of the ideas that Welcoming Gainesville stands for.
The new nonprofit achieved to make Gainesville Florida’s first Welcoming City in March of this year and Alachua County the second Welcoming County in Florida in June. This means that both our city and county are part of the nationwide Welcoming America network, a group of over 100 cities, counties and nonprofit organizations that aim to develop programs, services and policies to welcome and successfully integrate immigrants and other newcomers into our community.
Welcoming Gainesville organizes events and programs for our community that raise awareness about immigration and the obstacles that immigrants to Gainesville face and that encourage community members to become involved in integration work.
One big event that is celebrated by all Welcoming America members at the same time is Welcoming Week – a series of ongoing events that will last from September 16–25. Welcoming Gainesville is participating with its own series of events, all of which are free and open to the public:
Traveling Exhibit “People on the Move,” Sept. 14 – Oct. 10
This exhibit is made of 12 panels that inform about different aspects of worldwide migration including economic migration, displaced people, refugees and the consequences and opportunities that come with it. The exhibit gives people a chance to gain a better understanding of this highly charged topic and provides ideas for ways to become involved and advocate on behalf of immigrants and refugees. You will have a chance to visit the exhibit at different venues around Gainesville:
Sept. 14-18, Emmanuel Mennonite Church
Sept. 19-23, Santa Fe College
Sept. 26-30, Oak Hall School
Oct. 3-7, UF Pugh Hall Ocora
Welcoming Week Celebration, Sept. 22, City Hall Plaza
On September 22 at 5 PM Mayor Lauren Poe will officially proclaim the period of September 16–25 Welcoming Week in Gainesville. We will celebrate our membership in the Welcoming America network and the fact that we are on the path toward setting a positive example for all of Florida and other communities around the United States.
Mayor Poe and County Commissioner Hutchinson will be sharing what being a Welcoming City and Welcoming County means, and we will have a special guest from Welcoming America attend as well. Welcoming Gainesville and other organizations will be tabling and provide opportunities for residents to become involved with immigration work, refugee relief, international student support and much more!
Interfaith Donation Drive for Refugees in Florida, Sept. 25
Different faith communities in Gainesville will come together from now until September 25 to collect items that are desperately needed by refugees who are new to Florida and that cannot be purchased on food stamps.
These items include silverware, pots and pans, baby diapers and formula, hygienic supplies, laundry and dish detergent, bathroom rugs, shower curtains and many more. The collection of items will end on September 25 and we will pool all donations to send them to Catholic Charities in Jacksonville, one of the main refugee resettlement agencies in the state of Florida.
To stay up to date with these and other upcoming events, please visit our website welcominggainesville.org and follow our Facebook page “Welcoming Gainesville.”