February 2018 Newsletter

In this issue:
  • Resettlement agencies wait & hope
  • Freeze for Food: Run/Walk - March 3
  • Hats off to refugee-friendly landlords
  • Help refugees: Donate gift cards
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Get involved
  • Upcoming: ‘Dreamers’ conversation
  • Rollin' with refugees, Interfaith breakfast
"3rd Wednesday" General Meeting
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Warner Park

Community/Rec Center
1625 Northport Drive
Rm. 2
7:00 - 8:30 pm

New Folks Welcome
Lots of Help Needed
Resettlement Agencies Await Word on Increasing Capacity

Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and Jewish Social Services (JSS), which have helped more than 100 refugees make homes in Madison this past year, are now awaiting word from the U.S. State Department on what the coming year holds.

Both local agencies have applied to increase the number of refugees they sponsor in order to address new federal intentions to shut down agencies that resettle fewer than 100 individuals.

In 2017, LSS resettled 70 refugees and JSS 30.  If both agencies are approved to receive more refugees, Madison possibly could welcome twice as many families as last year. This would dramatically increase the demands on Open Doors For Refugees to provide assistance with jobs, housing, and English instruction, but the organization is confident that Madisonians have the heart and capacity to help meet the challenge.

Freeze for Food: Run with & for Refugees on Saturday, March 3
There's still time to sign up (and then bundle up) for the 37th Annual Freeze for Food, a warm-hearted 5K and 10K Walk / Run on Saturday, March 3, starting at noon. Proceeds from the event will go to support Open Doors for Refugees, especially food programs.

This family-friendly event, sponsored by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Wisconsin-Madison, will be held regardless of the weather. Newly arrived refugees have been invited to walk and run with the crowds, so participants also will be able to offer a warm welcome to some of the newest members of our diverse community.  Last year the RPCV group donated over $6,100 to ODFR from this event.

Both the 5K and 10K courses start and end at the Vilas Park Shelter, near Lake Wingra. The 5K walk goes through Vilas Park and along other nearby roads on the northern end of the lake. The 10K run circles Lake Wingra, passing through the UW-Madison Arboretum.

Volunteers are still needed.  Come help on this fun day!  SignUp Genius 
Register online in advance to run or walk with Its Race Time
Participants also may register at Vilas Park on the day of the event.

Hats Off to Refugee-friendly Landlords

One of the most critical challenges in resettling refugees is to find safe, well-managed, affordable housing.  Refugees arrive without jobs, credit histories, money for deposits, or knowledge of how to find housing. Several Madison area landlords have worked with resettlement agencies to provide newcomer families with housing and help them understand rental agreements.

To express appreciation to these accommodating landlords and to encourage other landlords to recognize that refugees are stable and reliable tenants, Open Doors for Refugees, Jewish Social Services and Lutheran Social Services hosted a reception on January 25, at Threshold.  About 40 persons attended, including an Iraqi-American couple who had resettled in Madison four years ago and now aspire to become landlords.

Newcomers from Syria and Sudan prepared trays of hummus, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, baklava, and beignets for refreshments. The team that planned and hosted the event included Erica Bouska, Efrat Livny, Margaret Brauer, Layla Kaiksow, Becky Wennlund and JSS Resettlement Coordinator Becca Schwartz.

For an overview of this challenging issue, read this article by Capital Times reporter Lisa Speckhard Pasque: Resettlement Agencies Scramble to Find Landlords to House Refugees .

Volunteers Help Refugees Gain English Skills ~ Tutors Needed

Open Doors created its ESL (English as a Second Language) Team to help refugees acquire the basic English language knowledge and skills that they need to become engaged in the local community. Team members range from experienced ESL professionals to interested volunteers with little or no ESL teaching experience.

During the fall 2017, Open Doors partnered with the Literacy Network to host the second session of a family literacy class. Based on the success of this class, Open Doors and the Literacy Network are hoping to offer this class again next summer.   

In the meantime, the ESL team held a workshop in January, 2018, where longtime ESL teachers Andrea Hobright and Patricia Blanco shared insights about effective ways for volunteers to teach ESL learners. The team is now in the process of matching interested tutors with newcomer learners for sessions during spring 2018.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer ESL tutor with Open Doors,  contact team co-leader Kerry G. Hill at

Opportunities to Help Refugees

Donate personal care items: Over the past month, Open Doors for Refugees has assisted in resettling nearly 20 incoming refugees, which has depleted our supplies. We especially need:
  • Deodorant for men and women
  • Razor blades for men
  • Shaving cream
  • Alarm clocks (radio alarms included)
  • Cutting boards
  • Covered kitchen waste baskets (13 gallons with lids)
  • Toilet cleaning brushes with holders
These items are much appreciated by our newcomers. To arrange for a pickup or a drop-off, email
Gift cards needed: Gift certificates and cards can help newly arrived refugees purchase items they need -- from groceries to hats, gloves, and coats -- and get to know local shopping venues. Open Doors for Refugees is accepting $25 and $50 gift cards from such stores as: Istanbul Market, Ross, Target, Woodman's, Willy Street Co-op, and St. Vincent DePaul.

In addition to donating cards, consider conducting a drive in your church or workplace. Gift cards and certificates may be mailed (padded envelopes are best) to: Open Doors for Refugees, 1213 N Sherman Ave #104, Madison 53704.

Volunteer Opportunities: Get Involved!

** Drivers needed for the Transportation Team
Open Doors drivers are currently providing rides to enable families to attend weekly English classes on Thursdays at Thoreau Elementary School, but we haven't been able to find enough drivers to help everyone who wants to attend. 
The classes run from 4 to 6 p.m., and will continue through April 12 (no class March 29). We are seeking drivers who can assist, even if occasionally.
We are also seeking volunteers who can help newly arrived refugees learn to use Madison's bus system. This is especially important for those who have a job but don't yet have a car. 
Contact Transportation Team Coordinator Margaret Brauer at, Phone: 608-772-2134
** Co-Leaders sought to help launch Cultural Companions
Several Madison families and refugee families have signed up for Open Doors' Cultural Companions initiative – a half-year initiative to connect a newcomer family with three Madison families, including one who speaks the newcomers’ language.

Many pieces of this initiative are in place, but a committed leader, or a pair of co-leaders, are needed to kick it off. If you are interested and want more information:

** Coordinator needed to lead Garden Team
Madison's community gardens offer possible places for newcomers to practice or learn gardening skills. Open Doors is seeking someone to coordinate a Garden Team, to help interested refugee families find gardening spaces.
Anyone interested in taking on this role may contact (Specify GARDENS). We also would encourage anyone who is interested in this role to attend the 2018 Gardens Network Summit at Edgewood College on Saturday, Feb. 24, from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.
** Employment Team seeking a co-leader
The Employment Team is seeking a co-leader to help refugees who are seeking their first or second job. The team works with employers and with newcomers seeking to get better jobs and understand the American workplace. Interested individuals may contact:  (Specify JOBS).

Upcoming Events

Promised Land: A Conversation - Feb. 25
This event will be held Sunday, Feb. 25, at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, 2401 Atwood Ave., with a light lunch at noon, followed by the program from 12:30 to 3:00 p.m.

Immigration and refugee policy were at the forefront of the 2016 presidential campaign and continue to make headlines. Heart-breaking stories and images of immigrants and dreamers challenge us daily. Who are the immigrants and refugees and “dreamers” among us?

The conversation will focus on the stories, concerns, and hopes of our immigrant, refugee, and dreamer neighbors. RSVP by email to (not required but helpful for planning).

CPC's International Cooking & Dinner ~ Feb 24
Bring an authentic international recipe to cook in the renovated kitchens of Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 E. Gorham, Madison, a monthly dinner that attracts a mix of internationals and Madisonians. Ingredients are supplied. Cooking beings at 3 pm and dinner at 6 pm. Enjoy meeting people from all over the world. To sign up, contact Jean Renee Watchou:,  608-217-3008

Run with Refugees in April to Benefit UN
Open Doors is co-sponsoring this event on Saturday, April 21, UNA-USA of Dane County.  Watch for details on website and in the next newsletter.

Past Events

Rollin’ for Refugees!
On January 13, the Mad Rollin' Dolls welcomed Open Doors for Refugees as their designated charity for their season-opening roller derby bout. In addition to donating to ODFR, the Mad Rollin' Dolls provided complimentary tickets to newcomer families, and the Chocolate Shoppe donated ice cream coupons. About 12 families came along with us to cheer on the teams.

Many thanks to the Mad Rollin' Dolls and Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream for their generosity!  Open Doors is following up with a "learn to roller skate" party for our families, coming soon.

Interfaith Breakfast
More than 100 women attended an Interfaith Breakfast and Lecture on January 27. Mideast historian Molly Patterson spoke on “Two Branches of a Family Tree: Islam and Christianity.”  First United Methodist Church, the sponsors, donated proceeds from the event to Open Doors for Refugees. We also want to express our appreciation to Elif Gunal and Jessie Hamilton for representing ODFR at the event.
Contact Us:










Mailing Address

Open Doors for Refugees

1213 N Sherman Ave # 104
Madison, WI 53704


Copyright © 2018 Open Doors for Refugees, All rights reserved.

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