Concordia students wrote and delivered 65 cards to Lutheran Social Services to welcome new Americans to Fargo-Moorhead.
The Campus Service Commission (CSC) began brainstorming ideas for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project in early January with specific criteria in mind. Adam Kolling ’17, commissioner for CSC and lead of this project explained, “We knew we wanted to implement an impactful activity where the whole campus could participate – even if students didn’t have a lot of extra time in their day.”
To promote respect and integrate groups that don’t often interact, CSC decided to welcome new Americans to the community through handwritten cards. Kolling began the process by speaking with one of the managers at LSS about a potential service opportunity – though he didn’t tell her specifically what they had in mind.
On MLK Day, CSC set up a table in the Atrium arranged so that any bypasser could stop and participate. They set out cards that included messages like “Welcome to Fargo-Moorhead,” “We’re glad you’re here” and “We support you.” Kolling was excited to see high participation and said students seemed to be really passionate and inspired to complete a welcome card of their own.
Soon, Kolling delivered the surprise cards to Lutheran Social Services in Fargo and was moved to see how thankful the resettlement managers were. The managers said that the cards would go directly to the families and they would let them know the notes were from Concordia College students in Moorhead.
With the cards in the hands of our new neighbors, Kolling and CSC were one step closer toward reaching their goal: Letting our area’s new Americans know that they are welcome in this community and especially the Concordia community.
Yasmeen Frost, team lead of Refugee Resettlement for LSS, explained that the most difficult parts of getting new Americans settled here are jobs, language barriers and transportation options.
“The transition is never easy,” she said. She added that Fargo is one of the most progressive sites for refugee resettlement because many of the refugees are coming here to be with their families and the cost of living is much cheaper than bigger cities.
Frost shared a quote from one of her clients: “It might be cold outside, but I can provide them a warm meal instead of living in a warm area.”
“I think we have one of the best communities here, Frost said. “I have lots of clients moving back into the area because to them, this was the most welcoming community they experienced. We have been very fortunate for the Fargo-Moorhead people – and looking at this place through a refugee eye – this is a very welcoming community.”
Frost was very thankful for the service project and explained, “It was a really pleasant surprise! Those welcome cards were a very sweet gesture. I have really cherished and enjoyed Concordia students – there is something really sweet about them. I don’t know if it’s the culture or atmosphere at Concordia but I really look forward to meeting more students in the future.”
After the case managers delivered the cards, they said their clients were really happy and felt appreciated. One of the managers said, “These cards came from Concordia students, people that our clients do not even know, yet they are welcoming them into this community. How amazing. It was incredibly well received. Things like this really mean a lot.”
Kolling hopes to work with LSS on more projects in the future. He leaves us with this call-to-action for welcoming our new neighbors to the community: “Do something – on a small or large scale, that may help them experience welcome.”
Danyel Schneider '16 is a content specialist at Concordia.