By Analiz G. Schremmer
As many gather with loved ones this Christmas season, Texas Baptists remember those who may be in need. Refugees are one group of people who often struggle in America.
Project: Start Refugee Resource Center focuses on helping refugees and seeks to connect them with assistance. The main office is located in the Vickery Meadows Community, which is home to nearly 20,000 refugees within a three-square-mile area.
Leonid Regheta, director of Project Start Refugee Resource Center, said that none of the work would be possible without the gifts of time and resources from local churches and individuals.
This winter, Project: Start has sent dozens of toys and hundreds of warm coats to bless families that attend local Burmese and Swahili-speaking refugee churches.
Project: Start continues to collect coats, warm clothing, sweaters, and blankets to distribute among local refugees this winter. They are also in need of small, household electronics and educational items as well as used kitchen appliances and furniture.
“We haven't had any laptop donations, but a lot of schools are asking their kids to use laptops and notebooks when they do homework. So if any organizations or businesses or stores would like to donate that, it would be an enormous blessing to help kids with homework and education,” Regheta said.
Regheta also mentioned volunteer opportunities were available. Project: Start seeks individuals who can help refugees fill out applications for food stamps or citizenship, as well as anyone willing to provide rides to the doctor or to a local food bank.
This year, Regheta assisted many refugee families and individuals and helped connect them with ministries and services in the area to meet their needs. Regheta recalled ministering to an Afghan refugee family who came to the Center in a time of great need. Over the summer, the family of six lived in a neglected apartment with an insect infestation. All of the children were covered in bug bites and they were left with no furniture because it had become a nesting ground for the pests.
Additionally, the Dallas summer heat was well into the triple digits and their air conditioner was down. The apartment management did not respond to requests for maintenance.
Regheta helped the family work with the City of Dallas to get out of their lease agreement and into a clean climate-controlled apartment. With gifts from donors, he was able to help them acquire food, school supplies, clothing, and warm, clean beds to get them off the floor at night. Lastly, he helped the dad find a job so that he could better provide for his family.
This year, Project: Start has delivered school supplies, bikes and hygiene kits. Volunteers also helped connect refugees with financial support, job assistance and transportation. Over Thanksgiving, five dinners were held for families from Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Nigeria and Burma, where many of these people may have heard the Gospel for the first time.
“My approach is to work with local refugee churches because the pastors of those congregations know which families most need our help and what type of assistance they need,” Regheta said. “Project: Start start is all about building capacity for others to help refugees so this partnership allows us to fulfill our mission while helping the churches to serve their people. It’s a beautiful win-win arrangement.”
If you or your church are interested in volunteering, hosting a donation drive or adopting a refugee family for Christmas, please call Leonid Regheta at 817-773-1097 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.