A Acapella groups from Conard and Hall high schools as well as Brown University will perform Friday night at the Universalist Church to raise funds to sponsor refugees.
By Ronni Newton
The Universalist Church of West Hartford hopes to sponsor a refugee family and will hold a fundraiser concert on Friday, Jan. 22, beginning at 7 p.m., in order to support the mission.
The concert itself was the idea of Jake Binder, a Conard High School graduate who now attends Brown University.
“The idea for the concert originated as my college a cappella group – the Higher Keys – was looking for performance opportunities in the area for our winter tour in New England. I grew up at the Universalist Church and am still connected to the community, so it seemed like a great place for a performance,” Binder said in an email.
“I then found out that the congregation was hoping to raise money to support a refugee family in the area. So we combined those two interests and put together a concert to raise money for a refugee family,” said Binder.
According to Universalist Church Interim Minister Len DeRoche, it will cost approximately $3,000 to sponsor a family.
Be S#arp from Conard High School, The Choraliers from Hall High School, and The Chordials from UConn will join the Higher Keys from Brown University for the performance.
The concert will be held in the sanctuary of the Universalist Church, located at 433 Fern St., West Hartford. The event is open to the public with a recommended donation of $10.
“I’m hoping the concert will be a great event to share our music and to raise money for a good cause!” Binder said.
The concert is part of the church’s social service agenda, and related to the efforts of its social justice committee, church member Linda Scacco said. The funds raised will support the efforts of the Universalist Church, which is partnering with the First Presbyterian Church in Hartford and hopes to raise enough money to sponsor a refugee family.
The Universalist Church is one of more than a dozen faith communities in West Hartford and surrounding towns working with New Haven-based Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) on refugee resettlement. IRIS will provide training to the church members before they are assigned a family.
Terry Schmitt, a minister who is also a former member of the West Hartford Board of Education, is part of the coordinating team. He said that a group of local clergy from West Hartford and surrounding towns, and representing a variety of faiths, began having conversations about the need to support refugees and one of the leaders suggesting splitting up the efforts into manageable-sized groups to host families.
According to Schmitt, the participating faith communities are working together in the following groups:
- First Congregational, Bloomfield; The Muslim Community Center of Bloomfield; The Church of Latter Day Saints, Bloomfield; Flagg Road UCC, West Hartford; and the Unitarian Society of Hartford
- First Church, West Hartford; Temple Beth Israel, West Hartford. Some members of First Baptist Church in West Hartford are also working with this group
- Universalist Church of West Hartford, and First Presbyterian Church of Hartford
- Westminster Presbyterian, West Hartford and Temple Beth El, West Hartford
In addition, St. James’s Episcopal Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church, both in West Hartford, are also planning to sponsor refugee families and are working together but independently of larger group of faith communities.
“The deeper point is that up to five groups are at work to bring refugee families to our area,” Schmitt said.
There are refugees from a number of countries hoping to be resettled, with the largest number – about 4 million according to IRIS Executive Director Chris George – coming from Syria. The screening process is extensive, George said, and takes about two years.
Because Connecticut has stated its intent to welcome Syrian refugees, it is likely that refugees being resettled in this area will be Syrian.
DeRoche said that the benefit of having so many faith communities working to sponsor refugees is that building a community rather than just an isolated family or two will create a better support network for the refugees. “The success depends upon creating a community,” he said.
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