LU focuses on town-gown relationship in lending of North Shore Bank building

The former North Shore Bank building purchased by Lawrence University is temporarily being set up as a donation collection point for refugees who are expected to relocate to the Fox Valley area in the coming year. The agreement is with two local organizations, the Fox Valley Kiwanis and the Fox Valley World Relief.

The agreement to designate the property as a donation collection point was signed on Monday, Feb. 10. It states that Lawrence will loan the building to World Relief Fox Valley free-of-charge until the first week of August 2014.

With Lawrence lending the building, the collection of the items will be handled by The Fox Valley World Relief and The Fox Valley Kiwanis. Items that will be collected are gently used furniture that could be used to furnish an apartment. This includes couches, lamps, dressers, kitchen tables and other furnishings.

The Fox Valley Kiwanis is a subdivision of a global organization of volunteers whose mission is to serve the children and communities of the world. Kiwanis and its youth-oriented Service Leadership Programs serve communities in more than 80 countries and geographic areas.

The Fox Valley World Relief is a subdivision of the larger World Relief organization. World Relief has a network of regional offices and partner churches that help resettle approximately ten percent of the 70,000 refugees that enter the United States regularly. Resettlement includes furnishing homes with materials such as those that will be collected at the property, providing language skills, job training and spiritual support all in the service of facilitating self-sufficiency.

These refugees come from a variety of backgrounds. They originally lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Iraq, though some may have originally come from Sudan, Cuba, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Bhutan and the former Soviet Union. Refugees may relocate for a variety of reasons. Currently, the vast majority of refugees find themselves in the need of relocation due to persecution related to race, religion, nationality, social group membership, political opinion or other matters of identity.

When seeking refuge in a country like the United States, refugees can be assigned to a variety of types of communities. The federal government evaluates each community in the country to determine possible viability as a new community for refugees. The State Department works with nine resettlement agencies to place refugees according to how the refugees’ needs correspond to the available resources of a community.

The Fox Valley has a successful history of supporting resettlement with both refugees from Sudan and Hmong refugees from Southeast Asia. The Fox Valley Kiwanis helped create a similar donation site in 2004 for the Hmong refugees.

Many components of the Fox Valley community have worked to support the resettlement of refugees in the past. This includes individual volunteers, businesses, non-profits and government offices. Organizations such as the Fox Valley Literacy Council (FVLC) work closely with volunteer tutors to be sensitive to the challenges experienced by the refugee clients, both before and after resettlement, whom they might work with. The FVLC is an organization that helps teach people who wish to improve their adult basic education, as well as those who wish to gain English language skills. Students have participated in refugee resettlement in a variety of ways, including volunteering with the FVLC as literacy tutors.

The use of the former North Shore Bank building as a donation collection site came from a desire to have a use for the building until a more permanent use can be put into place. Permanent plans for the recently purchased building are currently underway.

Three collection times have been established for donations. These are: from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, March 1, as well as from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4.