Golden Relief Group helps refugees from near and far

Organization reactivates to help Syrians

Posted 1/4/16

The Golden Relief Group got its start with Hurricane Katrina evacuees in 2005, but the group has been dormant since.

Until now.

On Dec. 3, Judy Denison and seven other Golden Relief Group members addressed the Golden City Council about a …

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Golden Relief Group helps refugees from near and far

Organization reactivates to help Syrians

Posted

The Golden Relief Group got its start with Hurricane Katrina evacuees in 2005, but the group has been dormant since.

Until now.

On Dec. 3, Judy Denison and seven other Golden Relief Group members addressed the Golden City Council about a proclamation to declare Golden a welcoming city to refugees.

City council members agreed that Golden should have compassion, according to Councilor Saoirse Charis-Graves, and that Golden is an international community, said Councilor Marcia Claxton.

“These are people who are fleeing the worst kind of terror,” said Councilor Marcie Miller.

However, council did not make the proclamation.

“It’s the people who are going to be the moving parts,” said Mayor Marjorie Sloan, “not the city government.”

With the intention to help Syrian refugees, the Golden Relief Group is partnering with a Colorado-based organization called Lutheran Family Services located in Denver.

“We have been given countless blessings from America. We need to pass it forward,” Denison said. “When we receive, we must give.”

Lutheran Family Services provides support to people in need “regardless of age, race, religion, creed, culture, marital status, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, military/veteran status or economic status,” according to its mission statement. Along with providing services such as adoption assistance and assessing options for elderly adults and their caregivers, Lutheran Family Services also aids immigrants with things like basic legal services, support for people suffering from grief and loss related to disaster and provides refugee resettlement and asylum services.

“Immigrants are major contributors to the society,” Denison said, and “they are a benefit to the country.”

Immigrants help America be vibrant and creative, she said, and immigrants provide energy in their communities.

Unlike the Katrina evacuees, the refugees the Golden Relief Group helps will not come to Golden, Denison said. The primary reason is because of housing issues, she said. The government requires that refugees have a housing unit with a kitchen and separate entry, and are not permitted to stay someone’s spare room or basement. In addition, refugees must be in close proximity to Lutheran Family Services’ resources like health screenings, counseling and English as a Second Language classes.

The biggest way in which the GRG can help Denison said, is as cultural mentors. Cultural mentors are there to “be their buddies,” she said. The mentors visit with the refugees, listen to their concerns and tell them about American customs. Mentors work in teams of four-to-six people for one refugee family. The commitment is for six months, and each team-member should be able to visit with the family for at least four hours a month.

Some of the refugees speak English quite fluidly, Denison said, but others — about 70 percent — know limited English. Only about 10 percent don’t speak English at all, she said.

Most of the refugees are families with children, Denison said, and added she believes there are not any single males currently involved with Lutheran Family Services.

It takes about two years for the clearance process for a person to come to America as a refugee, Denison said. Therefore, there are only currently a few from Syria, and members of the Golden Relief Group will probably work with people from Iraq, Afghan, Burma, Congo and Somalia, she said. However, new refugees arrive every couple of weeks, Denison added.

Another way to help is by donations. Monetary donations are always welcome but the refugees need stuff — especially bedding and kitchenware — when they arrive. Clothing is not accepted because Lutheran Family Services provides various means for families to shop at second-hand stores for necessary clothing, according to Denison, but warm coats are accepted during the winter months.

There are about 100 people currently involved with the Golden Relief Group. In January, the group will organize a board and a schedule of meetings, Denison said.

But, for now, within the Golden community, the group is showing support by sending flowers to the Islamic Center of Golden.

It’s all about the people-to-people connection, said wholesale florist Scott Bernheim who organized the deliveries.

“It’s important for people to have an open mind,” he said, and be “warm and welcoming to other cultures.”

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