OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA-By Marla Sell, Head Case Manager, Lutheran Congregational Services

A pot luck picnic brought together refugees and two organizations devoted to helping them transition to a life of self-sufficiency in the Lehigh Valley. The refugee programs of Lutheran Congregational Services and Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown, held their annual Refugee Pot-Luck Picnic at Macungie Memorial Park on August 11th.

This is the first year that we at Lutheran Congregational Services have been resettling refugees, so it was our first picnic, continuing the tradition that Catholic Charities had started. We invited all of the refugee families who arrived in the past several years and also volunteers and other community partners for a day of food and fun at the park.

P8110249What a great day! We cooked hot dogs, with help from a couple of volunteers and refugees, and we had quoits and beanbags, which were fun to teach the refugees how to play. The kids had a great time playing at the playground, on the swings and slide, and many families enjoyed the use of the public pool at the park.

We were lucky to have corporate sponsors’ help this year. We are grateful to Berks Products for the donation of the hot dogs and to Weis and Giant supermarkets for the donation of the hot dog buns. In addition this year, one of our major refugee employers, Nazareth Pallet Company, joined the picnic as a sponsor.

So far, during our program year, which runs from October 1-September 30, Lutheran Congregational Services has resettled 46 refugees out of an anticipated 50. We are planning to resettle 100 refugees in the next program year. Refugees are coming primarily from Burma and Iraq, with a few from other countries, primarily in Africa, such as Eritrea and Sudan.

We could not successfully resettle refugees without the help of volunteers and churches. We thank all of the churches and groups who have already supported our program, either financially or with donations of household items and furniture. Additionally heartfelt thanks go to those of you who contribute so much of your time and experience in helping our refugees to adapt to their new country.

Since we are doubling the size of our program, we continue to need your help. If you are interested in helping refugees in the Lehigh Valley, or would like more information about the program, contact Marla Sell at 610-770-9205 or msell@libertylutheran.org. We are also happy to speak about refugee resettlement to your congregation or group.

Lutheran Congregational Services is a service of Liberty Lutheran, a social ministry organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Liberty Lutheran annually provides vital resources to more than 61,000 individuals from the earliest stages of life to the advanced stages of aging, through its family of services in Eastern Pennsylvania.