LDS group donates items to refugees

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­

South­ern Mary­land can of­ten feel far re­moved from the global refugee cri­sis hap­pen­ing be­yond our bor­ders, but one group is mak­ing it a mis­sion to keep those driven from their homes in other coun­tries on their minds.

“We un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion of oth­ers who have been run out of their coun­tries for re­li­gious rea­sons or other rea­sons so we can re­ally iden­tify with what is go­ing on with th­ese refugees,” Bon­nie Ra­mon of Hugh­esville said. “Our church lead­ers have stressed to us that it is not our job to judge it is our job to help those who are strug­gling and to reach out to them.”

Ra­mon is a Stake Re­lief So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent within the South­ern Mary­land com­mu­nity of the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-Day Saints. The Suit­land, Mary­land Stake con­sists of nine wards and one branch. The Stake bound­aries cover Charles County (White Plains I Ward and White Plains II Ward), Calvert County (Calvert Ward), St. Mary’s County (Lex­ing­ton Park Ward and Patux­ent Ward) in ad­di­tion to wards within South­ern Anne Arun­del County and Prince Ge­orge’s County.

The church’s women’s or­ga­ni­za­tion, called the Re­lief So­ci­ety, col­lected hun­dreds of items in March to sup­port the refugee re­set­tle­ment ef­forts in the Washington, D.C. area, tak­ing heed of the church lead­ers’ call na­tion­wide to help refugees.

“There is that Chris­tian man­date to help the needy and we re­ally be­lieve in that,” Amy Hen­der­son, Suit­land Stake As­sis­tant Direc­tor of Public Af­fairs, said of the ef­fort. “There is a big em­pha­sis on the needs of refugees all over the world.”

The so­ci­ety part­nered with Lutheran So­cial Ser­vices to dis­trib­ute the col­lected items, in­clud­ing six types of “Wel­come Kits,” con­sist­ing of toi­letry and hy­giene items, clean­ing sup­plies, linens and tow­els, kitchen sup­plies, baby items, and table­ware. Ten of each type of kit was col­lected and Hen­der­son added the Bowie Ward “went above and be­yond” by do­nat­ing 60 sets of sheets, 60 blan­kets, 82 pil­lows, 82 sets of tow­els and 20 con­tain­ers of laun­dry de­ter­gent. Many items were col­lected at the March 2017 Stake Re­lief So­ci­ety Women’s Con­fer­ence at the chapel of the White Plains 1st and 2nd Wards.

Hen­der­son said the or­ga­ni­za­tion learned that each refugee fam­ily re­ceives a stipend from the State De­part­ment to use for re­lo­cat­ing in the U.S., and with the help of the do­nated kits, those funds may be re­served for hous­ing ex­penses.

“[The refugees] re­ally have to leave ev­ery­thing be­hind. They can’t bring a whole house­hold over here with them. Some of them are flee­ing dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions,” Hen­der­son said. “By hav­ing so many house­hold items do­nated and ready when they ar­rive, they can use their pre­cious funds for other essen­tials.”

Ac­cord­ing to Lutheran So­cial Ser­vices, 21.3 mil­lion refugees have been forced to flee their homes be­cause of war, per­se­cu­tion, and civil un­rest in their coun­tries. About half of them are chil­dren.

“It’s a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue. I know it is. But the bot­tom line is you can’t turn your back on in­no­cent peo­ple who are go­ing through tragedy,” Ra­mon said.

The con­tro­versy stems partly from fear that peo­ple who in­tend to do oth­ers harm in the U.S. will dis­guise them­selves as refugees and there­fore be al­lowed into the coun­try un­der false pre­tenses. Though the United States gov­ern­ment thor­oughly screens refugees’ back­grounds — a process that in­volves the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and State, the FBI and other na­tional in­tel­li­gence agen­cies — the fear re­sides that an in­di­vid­ual in­tend­ing to do harm will slip through the cracks.

But for Ra­mon, fear could over­power her de­sire to do what she be­lieves is right.

“I’ve had a lot of sis­ters who are in­volved in this com­ment to me that they bet­ter un­der­stand why it’s nec­es­sary to be kind to th­ese peo­ple and be­friend them and care for them and their sit­u­a­tion,” Ra­mon said.

“When you go in there and you see what this church is do­ing for th­ese peo­ple, it’s over­whelm­ing and in­cred­i­ble to think that there’s peo­ple who care enough to do this,” Ra­mon said of Lutheran So­cial Ser­vices. “We’ve been taught to be char­i­ta­ble and al­ways be kind and so that’s not an is­sue with us. It’s just what we do.”

From left, Calvin Hart of Lusby, Norma Goode of Prince Ge­orge’s County, Amy Hen­der­son and Bon­nie Ra­mon helped col­lect hun­dreds of items to do­nate to refugees re­set­tling in the Washington, D.C., area. SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Amy Hen­der­son, left, and Bon­nie Ra­mon, right, de­liv­ered hun­dreds of items to Lutheran So­cial Ser­vices in Hy­attsville to do­nate to refugees re­set­tling in the Washington, D.C., area.

Amy Hen­der­son, left cen­ter, and Mira Men­dick, Lutheran So­cial Ser­vices dona­tions co­or­di­na­tor, right cen­ter, joined staff from Lutheran So­cial Ser­vices in March to de­liver hun­dreds of items to be do­nated to refugees re­set­tling in the Washington D.C. area.

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