Bill learns about Kenilworth Union’s connection to RefugeeOne, an Outreach agency that resettles families fleeing war and persecution, from Director of Development Sara Spoonheim Amit.
Bill: Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg. I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my assistant minister.
We’re recording this on Monday the first and there’s about twelve inches of snow on the ground. I hope you all survived the storm okay.
As you can see, we’re at the headquarters of RefugeeOne. We’ll talk more about that in a minute. This is actually the temporary headquarters for RefugeeOne; we’re on North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, about 23 minutes from the church, and we’re going to hear about what RefugeeOne does in the city of Chicago and around the world in a moment. A longtime friend of Kenilworth Union.
So this is Sara Spoonheim Amit. She is the director of development at RefugeeOne. So Sara, I hope we’ll have a chance to hear your history with Kenilworth Union, but tell us about RefugeeOne first. What’s the mission? What do you do?
Sara: You bet. RefugeeOne is Chicago’s largest resettlement agency. We partner with the federal government to welcome refugees who have been fleeing war and persecution and come to Chicago. We’re there at O’Hare the moment that they arrive. And often with church partners like Kenilworth Union Church to welcome families.
Bill: That’s so wonderful. Tell us about Kenilworth Union’s partnership with RefugeeOne. How do we contribute to your mission?
Sara: First off, we’ve been an Outreach partner for 15 years. Every year, we receive a really generous grant, making you one of our top congregational partners really in Chicagoland.
And then you also roll up your sleeves and put time in as well. Kenilworth Union has co-sponsored multiple refugee families, most recently three families from Syria, South Sudan, and from the Congo. Many Kenilworth families were involved in setting up their homes, in greeting them when they arrived, and then walking alongside them for their first six months through all of the ups and downs of learning a whole new culture and language.
Bill: Kathy and I were part of a group from Kenilworth Union who welcomed a family from Syria, and they’re still very much a part of our lives.
Sara: That’s great.
Bill: What is your history with Kenilworth Union, Sara?
Sara: I got to know you when I was in seminary almost twenty years ago. And you all gave me a Centennial Scholarship which made such a difference early in my career. And now twenty years later, here we are again, which is amazing.
Bill: That is so poetic and shapely. It really is wonderful to see what goes around, comes around. Here we are in RefugeeOne’s temporary home. You’re living the experience of many of your clients. You are without a home right now, so tell us about that and tell us about where you’re moving to and how much money you’re raising and things like that.
Sara: Sure. Yes, we had lost our lease of 36 years. We had been renting in a historic building in Uptown and then scattered sites all around the northside of Chicago. And when our lease became up and the building was being converted to upscale rental apartments, we needed to find a new place to live. Amazingly, a generous donor learned about our plight and donated this building to us as a temporary home.
Sara: It is, yes. This has been, will be, home for us while we dream up and build our future permanent home. The silver lining of losing our lease was that we can move to West Ridge neighborhood, which is where the vast majority of our clients live. And now clients will be able to walk to our after-school program and show up for appointments and easily use public transit to get to our headquarters.
Bill: You’re doing a capital campaign. How much money are you trying to raise?
Sara: We’re going to raise close to three million dollars, total.
Bill: And on track to get there.
Sara: It’s kind of amazing, Pastor Bill. We set a goal of two million for the silent phase from leadership donors, and in large part thanks to Kenilworth Union, we surpassed that goal in December.
Bill: Tell us about our contribution, our little micro-capital campaign at Kenilworth Union that you conducted. Sure.
Sara: There was an anonymous member of your congregation who pledged $150,000.
Bill: I don’t even know who it is.
Sara: And their family wanted to support our future home. They used that to challenge other members of KUC to give as well, and we said let’s try to double the money. And with a very small group of Kenilworth Union leaders who stepped forth, we raised that money and have more than $300,000 now, thanks to your support.
Bill: Great. Sara, thank you for doing this wonderfully important mission for refugees from around the world. Your longtime, 20-year partnership with Kenilworth Union—it’s so gratifying to people like Kathy and me to work with you.
So God bless you and RefugeeOne and the Lord bless you all. Amen.
Sara: Thank you.