COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado is expecting to welcome anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 refugees.
In a press conference Monday, the Colorado Refugee Services Program said ninety percent of Afghanistan refugees are expected to settle in near the Denver area with roughly ten percent coming to Colorado Springs. According to the agency, a handful have already arrived in the state, but many more are expected in Mid-October.
First United Methodist Church Prairie Campus is among the Colorado Springs churches and organizations that have stepped up to help in resettlement efforts.
"We are excited to welcome an Afghanistan family because as Christians we remember that Jesus was a refugee when he was little and his family had to flee to Egypt. Hopefully, there were families there that were welcoming him. In Matthew 25, Jesus says when you welcome a stranger you welcome me and so we really see this as our religious commitment," said Pastor Patty Walker, First United Methodist Church Prairie Campus.
Since volunteering to co-sponsor Afghanistan refugees, Walker says they've been preparing for their arrival.
"There are three things that we've been doing to prepare for them to come. The first is that we're forming a cultural support team, which is about eight people from our church who are going to be the hands-on friends of this new family. They are going to take them to the grocery store, museums, parks, teach them about American money and practice English with them. Then we are raising funds because we are going to be providing financial support for these families. It's going to take a while to find work and various financial resources. Then third we are going to be setting them up in their new home so we are collecting furniture, dishes, and towels," Walker said.
The church is also preparing to help with any mental health needs that refugees may need.
"One of the things we're doing to prepare ourselves is that we are availing ourselves to some local experts here in Colorado Springs who've spent time in Afghanistan and with the people. There are a lot of things we need to be aware of in terms of religion and culture. We are having speakers come and talk to us about all of that," Walker said.
Lutheran Family Services has also been providing much-needed support to them and other volunteers on how to help integrate refugees into the Colorado Springs community.
"I've been meeting with church groups and doing a lot of talks, volunteer, and co-sponsorship training. I would say well over two dozen groups I've met with already, and counting," Floyd Preston of Lutheran Family Services said. "We go through a lot of co-sponsorship training of how refugees get here, what is the 101 of refugee resettlement so they have a basis of how they get here but also a basis of how Lutheran Family Services prepares refugees for integration into our community."
The organization has been working with community partners to help meet some of their immediate needs.
"One of the biggest needs are apartments and affordable housing. We're having to call on our partners to help with rental properties and we're working with AIR BNB. We're working with as many partners and individuals who have properties that can help with this process. People can donate with gift cards so master cards, visa cards, and Walmart gift cards. Often when refugees come, they only have what they have. If people want to donate furniture, we are asking them to call our office but also to hold it until we have a larger space to facilitate the volume that we need," Preston said.
The community looking forward to making a difference in the lives of the refugees that call Colorado home.
"It's one little thing we can do in this sea of horrible images. Here is one little thing, we can help this one family," Walker said. "I'm super excited for this opportunity for my church. To learn about Islam, culture, and I think it makes us a stronger and beautiful people."
For more information on donating or volunteering, contact Lutheran Family Services.