In August 2016, a family of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo was legally resettled in St. Petersburg by the State Department, and they soon registered in our parish. After escaping the Congo, where there has been a civil war, they lived in a refugee camp for a year before being vetted and allowed to come to the US. The family includes a mother, father and four children ages one-and-a-half, 3, 6 and 7. They are practicing Catholics, attend Mass at our parish each weekend, and all of the children are baptized.
A second family(arrived Nov. 15, 2016) includes a mother, five adult children (aged 18 -25) and one granddaughter, aged 3. The family has been Catholic for three generations, and the grandfather, they tell us, was a catechist.
Although they have received some services through the State Department, Daystar, and their assigned agency (Jewish Family Services is coordinating their case), and despite the fact that the father is employed as a dishwasher, they still have many needs. The family now has to pay rent of about $800 per month, utilities, food and transportation. They do not have a car, but rely on the bus and on the father's bicycle. The father operated a sewing machine in the DRC.
Both families are overjoyed to receive the friendship and assistance they have received so far. God is truly taking care of them through the generosity of our community. Please be sure to welcome them if you see them at the 11:00 Mass!
What Can You Do?
Saint Mary's parishioners are pooling their resources to help. We have already provided a washer and dryer for the first family, a crib and sewing machine, bus cards, linens, a dining room set, toys and clothing, but the families still have many needs. If you are able to help, please contact Claudia McIvor at 727-896-2191, extension 207. Cash and gift card donations are also gratefully accepted.
Here is the list of items requested by Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services. If you have one of these items to donate, please contact them to arrange delivery at (727) 479-1800:
- Computers for employment purposes
- Gift cards (Publix,Walmart, etc)
- Transportation and bus passes
- Health and hygiene products (excluding medicine)
- General cleaning supplies
- Tools for those working in trades/construction
- Backpacks with school supplies
- Household items (towels)
- Household appliances in working order
- The Ngongo family is expecting their fifth child in June 2017. If you can supply gift cards or cash assistance to help them cover expenses while mom stays home with the new baby, please let us know. They will need to make up her missed income for about 3 months. The baby, Grace, is already known to have medical issues so please pray for her safe delivery.
- Transportation - from time to time, the families need help getting to a doctor's appointment. If you are available during the day, please give me a call.
- As new families of refugees arrive, we try to welcome them, no matter what faith tradition they represent. If you would like to help provide items for a welcome basket, let me know. I'll add you to our list of helpers and let you know when a new family arrives.
Anyone who wishes to get to know these fine families and have direct contact with them through our church must be safe environment trained and pass a Level 2 background screening. The church will pay for these expenses. Let us know if you would like to help!
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