LDS group donates items to refugees
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.