December 2017 Newsletter

Special Year-End Issue:
  • Our Year in Review
  • Our Year Ahead - Mark your calendars
No "3rd Wednesday" Meeting
Because of the holidays,
there won't be a "3rd Wednesday" general meeting in December.
They will resume on January 17.
Happy Holidays!
Open Doors for Refugees: 2017 in Review

Less than two years ago, we launched Open Doors for Refugees (ODFR) as a grassroots, volunteer organization to help refugees make a home in the Madison area. ODFR has several hundred active members, with more than 1,000 people on the mailing list. We often work directly with local resettlement agencies and the broader Madison community to provide direct support for refugees.

Our message is: “Welcome to a community that cares!”

We support refugees in several ways.
We collect donations and set up apartments:
In our biggest and most visible activity, dozens of volunteers from ODFR and Jewish Social Services (JSS) collect, organize, and store donations of furniture and household items. We then use these donations to set up comfortable and welcoming apartments for arriving refugees.

This year we collected enough furniture and household items to set up 12 apartments for new arrivals.  And we couldn’t have done it without generous support from our donors.  We especially want to thank Paul and Ellen Reckwerdt, and Ben Reynolds and Natalie Evans of Reynolds Transfer and Storage, for their trust and gift of our storage spaces.

Would you like to be part of this amazing process?  We're looking for someone to help plan logistics for donation pickup and apartment setup. If you're interested, please email

We provide a range of direct personal services for refugees:

ODFR has several teams that work with and for refugees, often in collaboration with JSS staff and volunteers, and occasionally with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) staff and volunteers. Between September 2016 and October 2017, 96 refugees were resettled by JSS and  LSS, and ODFR has worked with and assisted most of them.
  • Housing: We work with the resettlement agencies to find housing for new arrivals. We are grateful for the landlords who are willing to take a risk and rent to newcomers who arrive without rental history, credit history or jobs.  They are seldom disappointed!
  • Employment: We help refugees find jobs. This includes helping them develop resumes, complete job applications, and learn interview skills.  Earlier this week we conducted a job fair to teach refugees job related skills.
  • Translation/Interpretation: We provide interpretation (verbal) and translation (written) assistance. We have a strong Arabic-speaking network. However, with more refugees coming from non-Arabic speaking countries (primarily African), we are seeking volunteers who speak other languages such as Swahili, Dari and Pashto.
  • English as Second Language (ESL): Our ESL team works with the Literacy Network to offer weekly family literacy classes. ODFR volunteers provide transportation and childcare to enable refugees to regularly attend classes taught by the Literacy Network. With that level of student support, the program has been outstandingly successful! The ESL team also provides in-home tutoring.
  • Transportation: We provide transportation for new families, when needed; in 2017, we gave hundreds of rides. To help newcomers become more self-reliant, we teach them how to use the bus system, and have provided several with bikes, helmets, and route training.
We run programs to assist and support refugees:
  • Cultural Companions: We are launching this program which pairs refugee families with local families to foster longer-term connections and cross-cultural exchanges.
  • Educational Assistance: This new program aims to help refugees become more self-sufficient.  Refugees who've been here less than five years may receive up to $500 per person per year (up to a total of $1,000 over multiple years) to cover up to half of the costs of eligible classes, books and supplies. These might include behind-the-wheel and other skill-development courses, as well as trade and academic classes. 
  • Gift Cards: Through our seasonal gift card campaign, members of the community can provide direct support to refugees by donating gift cards from their local grocery, department or thrift store.  Last year, donors gave $5,000 in gift cards, enough to provide $50 in gift cards for each of the nearly 100 men, women, and children being served by ODFR at the time.
We organize and sponsor various events to raise awareness about, support, and socialize with refugees:
  • Welcoming Workshop, Meadowood Neighborhood Center, March 25, 2017.  ODFR’s Leadership Council hosted a potluck luncheon for 12 recently-arrived refugee families. More than 50 people attended. Through interpreters, the newcomers talked about their experiences and shared their immediate and long-range concerns.
  • Wisconsin Film Festival, March 3 – April 5, 2017.  ODFR donors contributed $2,000 to sponsor two independent refugee-related films (Stranger in Paradise and Abacus) at the Wisconsin Film Festival. ODFR hosted Q&A sessions after the screenings.
  • Fire at Sea Benefit Screening, Barrymore Theater, April 26, 2017.  Hundreds of people attended ODFR's benefit screening of Fire at Sea, an award-winning film that documents the urgency of refugee issues. This benefit served as an opportunity to highlight ODFR's efforts.
  • Second Annual Community Celebration Picnic, Olin Park Shelter, May 21, 2017.  More than 300 people, newcomers and residents, sampled foods from many countries.  Entertainment included music by Clare Norelle, the Oudist Colony and dancers, and Lakeside Street Irish Musicians, martial arts demonstration by Silver Lining, and face-painting and balloon arts for children.
  • Jammin’ for Refugees Concert, Threshold, July 23, 2017.  A benefit concert by Milwaukee singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey and the duo SistaStrings attracted 100 people who dined on tantalizing food made by refugees, adding to the proceeds.
Welcoming Week, September 17-24, 2017

Sponsored nationally by Welcoming America and celebrated in more than 300 U.S. communities, Welcoming Week events aim to bring together immigrants, refugees, and native-born residents. The local celebration featured proclamations from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, which ODFR displayed at six (6!) Welcoming Week events:
  • Willy Street Fair, September 17, 2017: ODFR hosted a day-long meet-and-greet to raise awareness about refugees in Madison. More than 100 signed up with ODFR.
  • Citizenship/Naturalization Ceremony, Wisconsin State Capitol Rotunda, September 19, 2017: In the first naturalization ceremony held in Madison for many years, 42 people from 35 countries became U.S. citizens.
  • Kids for Peace Celebration, Madison Children's Museum, September 20, 2017:  Children from 12 refugee families tried a variety of  hands-on activities during this special Family Night.
  • The Memory Project Exhibit, Ruth Davis Design Gallery, UW-Madison, September 21, 2017: At the opening reception for “The Memory Project: Faces of Joy,” a newly arrived Syrian woman and her daughters shared the podium with project founder Ben Schumaker and UW-Madison Associate Professor Nevine El-Nossery, a member of ODFR's Leadership Council.
  • Soccer Fest, Warner Park, September 23, 2017: Teams of 5x5, with a mix of native and non-native players, participated in a “pick-up” round-robin tournament.
  • Free screening of 8 Borders, 8 Days, UW-Madison Campus, September 24, 2017: ODFR and UW-Madison's Middle East Studies Program co-sponsored the first Madison screening of the independent film by Lebanon-based American filmmaker Amanda Bailly.
  • School Supply Delivery, September 2, 2017. ODFR volunteers gathered and delivered backpacks filled with school supplies and $25 gift certificates to more than 60 refugee children getting ready for the first week of school. Special thanks goes to SkyZone Trampoline School and Wagon Drive for their donations.
  • Pumpkin Patch and Apple Pickin’ Outing, Eplegaarden in Fitchburg, October 21, 2017.  ODFR volunteers accompanied 15 refugee parents and their children on an outing that included picking pumpkins and apples, and going on a hayride in horse-drawn wagon.
  • Thanksgiving Celebration, Christ Presbyterian Church, November 19, 2017.  More than 120 people gathered for a potluck that featured traditional American holiday foods and eight tender Halal turkeys from Middle East Market. Special thanks to Christ Presbyterian Church for hosting this get-together, sponsored by ODFR and JSS.
  • Job Search Event, Catholic Multicultural Center, December 11, 2017.  Refugees and employment professionals met to address job-hunting questions, prepare resumes, and do interviews with prospective employers.
We collaborate with partners who support our work through special events:
  • Know Your Rights: United We Stand, Monona Terrace Convention Center, January 29, 2017.  The City of Madison hosted a rally in which 2,500 people demonstrated concern for newly proposed anti-immigrant, anti-refugee legislation. More than 100 people signed up with ODFR.
  • Freeze for Food 5K/10K Walk & Run, Vilas Park, March 4, 2017  The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Wisconsin-Madison donated $6,138 from proceeds of its 36th Annual Walk Run to ODFR. 
  • Side Hustle for Good Euchre Tournament, March 19, 2017.  The UW-Madison student service organization Side Hustle for Good donated $1,600 raised from its spirited euchre tournament to ODFR.
Looking back, 2017 was a really full year for Open Doors.  We continue to work with new and arriving refugees, with those who've been here awhile, and with the broader Madison community.  And we do it all with volunteers!  We rely upon and are tremendously supported by you and by our donor community.  For that we gratefully say
And looking forward to next year, mark your calendars!
  • January 13, 2018, 5-9pm, Mad Rollin Doll's Roller Derby League, season opening bout, Alliant Energy Center, benefit for Open Doors.  Come get an eyeful of kinetic energy and support a good cause
  • January 17, Open Doors "Third Wednesday" public meeting, location to be determined.
  • February 18, 2018, Learn to Roller Skate party for refugee families at Fast Forward Roller Skating Rink.
  • March 3, 2018Returned Peace Corp Volunteers Spring Run/Walk 5K/10K, Vilas Park, benefit for Open Doors.
  • June 24, 2018, Third Annual Community Celebration Picnic at Olin Park.  Come join hundreds of long term and new members of our community for a shared potluck, plenty of camaraderie and entertainment, and fun!
Contact Us:










Mailing Address

Open Doors for Refugees

1213 N Sherman Ave # 104
Madison, WI 53704


Copyright © 2017 Open Doors for Refugees, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp