Several Rotarians in District 5495 have come together to conduct a district-wide “Week of Welcome” community service project this month to support asylum seekers and over 1,400 refugees, including 700 Afghan refugees relocating to Arizona in coming months.
The “Week of Welcome” will be conducted Oct. 23-30. Both individual Rotarians and clubs are encouraged to provide assistance in a number of ways, including donating new and gently used clean clothing, volunteering at the Welcome Center, providing books for refugee children and more.
The project was spearheaded by Past District Governor Nancy Van Pelt, a member of the Prescott Frontier Club and chair of the district’s Peacebuilders Committee; Kathy Mitchell of the Phoenix 100 Club, Judi Edmonds of the Rotary Club of Sun Lakes and Diana Tacey of the Rotary Club of Gilbert.
The project team will work closely with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the organization responsible for coordinating the refugee and asylum seeker arrivals into Arizona. All refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Phoenix have been fully vetted by both the federal government and the IRC and have been granted appropriate legal status to enter the United States.
Seven hundred Afghan refugees will be relocated in coming months. All contributions and donations will benefit the IRC and the Welcome Center in south Phoenix, where many new Americans generally spend their first few days after arriving in the country.
We encourage Clubs and Rotarians to participate in the Week of Welcome in a number of ways. Please contact Kathy Mitchell if you or your club are interested in volunteering in any of the following ways. She will get you more details on how you can help and exactly what is needed. She is in constant contact with the IRC staff to be sure their needs have not shifted.
  • Donate new or gently used clean men’s and women’s clothing. The Welcome Center currently has plenty of children's clothing and their greatest needs are noted at the top of this list.
  • Donate new car seats or booster seats for children to safely be transported.
  • Volunteer with the International Rescue Committee.
  • Serve as a family mentor for a family new to our country.
  • Provide Target, Wal-Mart or Visa gift cards for families new to America so they can go to the store with their family mentor and learn what items best suit their family.
  • Make a cash donation to the IRC.
  • Provide hygiene products to be distributed to families who have newly arrived as asylum seekers or refugees.
  • Help set up apartments for newly arriving families (weekdays).
  • Adopt a family for the holidays.
  • Teach English to newly arriving families.
Judi Edmonds, a member of The Rotary Club of Sun Lakes and a volunteer at Matthew House, said Rotarians can also assist refugees by teaching English to new arrivals.
Matthew House coordinates volunteers working with the Afghan refugees, teaching English to the women (most of the men were working with the Americans and speak English), playing with the children and serving meals to the families.
“Some of the women approached the teachers after class saying, ‘class is so good. Can you come on Saturday and Sunday, too? We want to learn more, and there is nothing to do on Saturday and Sunday. Our children are bored then, too.’” said Ms. Edmonds.
“Security is tight and volunteers are rigorously vetted through Matthew House, but it is very rewarding to get to know the families.” 
Donations will be accepted before and after the “Week of Welcome.”
Clothing Drive
“As People of Action, we’re asking members to help collect new or gently used clean clothing for the International Rescue Committee (IRC)/Welcome Center which assists asylum-seeking individuals and families to unite with their sponsors,” said Kathy Mitchell of the Phoenix 100 Club.
The list of clothing items can be found here.

Donated items can be dropped by Friday, Oct. 22, at the Phoenix Rotary 100 Club office, 501 E. Osborn Road, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Please call 602-604-8221 ahead to ensure someone is available to receive your donation.

Alternatively, if you are unable to drop off your donations, two Phoenix Rotary 100 club members have stepped up to collect donated items home if you are in Maricopa County. Please email Kathy Mitchell or Lisa Beohm by Friday, Oct. 15, to coordinate pick-up of your donation.