Washtenaw County nonprofit welcomes refugees and volunteers to returning Thanksgiving potluck

Washtenaw County nonprofit Washtenaw Refugee Welcome (WRW) is bringing back its annual Thanksgiving Potluck this December after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers and refugee families are invited to bring dishes to pass on Dec. 2 from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. and share in the spirit of gratitude and community.

WRW Board President Emmeline Weinert explains that while she and other WRW volunteers wanted to bring the potluck back to the community last year, COVID-19 had made it necessary for the organization to focus on rebuilding its volunteer base and assessing the refugee community's needs.

“During the pandemic, it was hard to bring people together physically in order to keep them engaged,” Weinert says. “We’re excited to get everyone gathered again.” 

WRW holds quarterly events throughout the year to bring refugee families together and introduce them not only to local social service resources but also to each other and the greater Washtenaw County community. She says this potluck is another example of that, providing an opportunity to come together for a secular holiday and for families to bond over “the value of thankfulness."

“Food is a great way to bring people together,” Weinert says. “We have refugee families from central and eastern Africa, Latin America, the Middle East. It will be a very diverse table.”

Previous iterations of the potluck were held at Holy Faith Church in Saline, but Weinert and other volunteers found that location was sometimes a bit far for some families to easily attend. In 2019 the event moved to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints (LDS), 1385 Green Rd. in Ann Arbor, and Weinert says the church was “very enthusiastic” about hosting again this year.

“The LDS is providing a lot of basics for the meal as well as volunteers and crafts for the kids,” she says. “They’ve always been gracious hosts.”

Weinert hopes that this event, as well as a new monthly resource room meetup that WRW has planned for next year, will help local refugee families feel less of the isolation that is all too common among the population. She also mentions that WRW is always accepting monetary donations as well as donations of household goods such as bedding and towels, microwaves, and coffee pots.

“The mission of WRW is neighbors helping neighbors,” Weinert says. “We want to make sure everyone is set up for success.”

To learn more about WRW’s mission, volunteer opportunities, or to donate, visit its website.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photo courtesy of WRW.
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