This year, as part of an internship with Mennonite Central Committee Great Lakes, which meets a requirement for my Masters of Divinity degree at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, I have been researching the possibility of opening an immigrant resource center in Elkhart County. As I have talked with people and local organizations, especially conversations at the National Immigrant Justice Center, I have heard a need for connection entity in the area of immigration. There are a lot of people and organizations doing good work for immigrants in Elkhart County, but there is not a lot of connection and coordination between these organizations. A resource center would be able to better connect people with the resources available and also be an educational hub for the community on immigration.

Instead of giving out direct resources, I envision a resource center using the model of Indianapolis’s Immigrant Welcome Center to connect recent immigrants with trained volunteers, known as “natural helpers,” who are immigrants themselves and can help connect them with resources such as health care, legal services, government agencies, public transportation, education, housing, job training, and more. Immigrants who come into the office or call in will be matched with a natural helper in their language and culture and can help them navigate the resources in the community. Learn more about Indianapolis’ program at https://www.immigrantwelcomecenter.org/.

I also envision a resource center as the place to do education in the broader community about how immigrants contribute to our society. I would like to see the diverse communities in Elkhart County come together more to learn from each other and be able to support each other. I envision the center being able to coordinate resources of everyone to make this county more hospitable to the immigrants who live as our neighbors.

Immigrants contribute a lot to our society and bring with them gifts that make this a better place for everyone. I want to be able to give people the resources they need to use their gifts and contribute to this place that we call home. I believe that Elkhart County is an amazing place to live and work and I want it to be a welcoming place for all people.

I invite people to come out to the Civil Salon this Tuesday night, January 10 at 7pm to learn more about my vision and to join me in brainstorming ways we can make this center a reality in our community. http://civicsalon.com/event/envisioning-an-immigrant-resource-center