May 2018 Newsletter

In this issue:
  • Reaching out to more refugees
  • How to distribute gift cards
  • Big families bring big challenges and rewards
  • Annual Community Picnic - June 24
  • Jewish Social Services' Corner
  • Help Wanted - Donations Manager
"3rd Wednesday" General Meeting
May 16, 7:00-8:30 pm
James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation
2146 E Johnson St, Madison, 53704

Want to get involved?
Come and learn how you can!
Reaching out to more refugees

Open Doors has been successful in reaching out to, connecting with, and garnering the support of the general public. For that we are always grateful.  
Our challenge has been to connect directly with refugee families as their identity and location is kept confidential by the resettlement agencies - Jewish Social Services and Lutheran Social Services.  This has made it hard for us to make our availability and our particular services known to the refugees.  

We have recently launched an initiative to remedy this gap.  

We’ve developed a flier that is specifically geared to refugees that describes the services and programs we offer.  This flier is written in four languages (English, French, Arabic and Nepali).  We’ve also created additional fliers describing our Skill Building (Educational Assistance) and Gardening programs (see the November 2017 and March 2018 newsletters respectively).   JSS and LSS have agreed to mail these fliers to their existing and former clients, along with cover letters encouraging the refugees to contact us directly.  Both agencies also will provide our information to new refugees as they arrive.  We look forward to seeing the results of this effort and are grateful to LSS and JSS for helping us reach out to and connect with these families.
What to do with gift cards

Many people have donated gift cards for a variety of vendors and of varying amounts, because they know that their entire donation goes directly to refugees and lets the recipients get whatever they most need. 
Last year, Open Doors received several thousands of dollars in gift cards and distributed most of them to families with whom we have served. We distributed cards at a fixed dollar amount per person, and not based on perceived need.

This year, we’ve collected fewer gift cards, but still have a few thousand dollars worth. Again, we wondered: What’s the best way to distribute them?  This is complicated by the knowledge that we aren't in contact with all arriving refugees.

Last week the Open Doors Leadership Council decided to let LSS and JSS, per their suggestion, distribute the cards on our behalf. This will allow cards to go to any and all arriving refugees as needed, as gifts from the community, coming through Open Doors.

You may still contribute to this effort by picking up gift cards from your favorite department store, grocery, or thrift shop in $25 or $50 amounts, and mailing them to:

        Open Doors for Refugees
        1213 N Sherman Ave #104
        Madison WI, 53704

Again, thanks to the many dozens of caring, generous people who’ve provided gift cards for local refugee families.
Settling a large family presents large challenges and rewards

Last week, Jewish Social Services received a refugee family of eight, the largest family that JSS has ever settled. Providing for a family of that size presented some new challenges.
Finding a decent, affordable, four-bedroom apartment in Madison was especially difficult. 
One unit was found, but then fell through a week before the family was due to arrive.  Fortunately, another apartment was lined up a few days before the family was due. The landlord moved quickly to get the cleaning and painting done in time.
Open Doors helped JSS volunteers gather, organize, load, transport, unload, install, and set up the apartment. The beds were set up and the kitchen prepped the night before, and the rest of the furniture and household items were in place by noon the next day. 
It was an efficient, well-run operation, with donations manager Jim Hornik leading the planning and execution for Open Doors. Capital Times reporter Lisa Speckhard-Pasque, who has been covering refugee resettlement in Madison, followed the team throughout the morning.
Such a large family also presents challenges to our transportation team. Two or three drivers and cars are needed to transport the family every time they have to go anywhere.
Kudos to Margaret Brauer and the transportation team for making that happen. 

Open Doors is seeking more volunteers to help refugees get where they have to go. If you have a good driving record, a reliable car, good insurance, and a desire to help, please contact us via email to

Much thanks to the many folks of Open Doors and JSS who helped to make this all work.

Annual Community Picnic is fast approaching

Save the date: Sunday June 24, 12:00-5:00, Olin Park Shelter
A gathering that reflects and enhances our rich diversity, and an
opportunity to meet, greet, and converse, this summer picnic
features a potluck of foods from many traditions and cuisines,
great music, and games for children and adults.
Please help us make this year’s event a great success by planning to participate and by offering your time. Support especially needed:

Now: Post flyers throughout town

Day of Event:
  • Set up the Picnic Grounds on (10 a.m.)
  • Food Set Up & Servers (1 hour shifts 12:00 noon-4:00 p.m.)
  • ODFR Information Table Staffing (1 hour shifts 12:00 noon-4:00 p.m.)
  • Picnic Take Down & Clean Up at end of day (4:30-6:00 p.m.)

To volunteer, please sign up for specific tasks here.

Thank you. It takes a village.
Jewish Social Services Corner

When Jewish Social Services restarted our Refugee Resettlement program in 2016 we knew it would be challenging – and that was before the presidential election. 
In contrast with most resettlement agencies, JSS has actually resettled more arrivals this year than last year. Nationwide, the numbers are down significantly.  Last year JSS resettled 30 people from Syria, DRC, Afghanistan and Iraq. So far this year, we have welcomed 34 people, with 6 more on the way later this month. Our partnership with Open Doors for Refugees has been crucial from the arrival of the first family in December 2016 through what was arguably the most impressive apartment transformation for a family of 8 who arrived last week. (Thank you ODFR for all your help!)
As we continue resettlement in the current environment, our needs are evolving. We are developing new initiatives in coordination with our clients and volunteers, to meet those needs and we’d like ODFR to be a part of the process. We are looking to expand our efforts in the areas of political advocacy and employment in order to ensure that our country continues to give refuge to the people who most need it, and to help ensure economic self-sufficiency to those who arrive here in Dane County. If either of these areas sound interesting to you, please reach out to ODFR leadership or to JSS and let us know.
LSS and JSS will be hosting a series of events during the week of World Refugee Day – the week of June 18th. We will share more information once plans are finalized and we hope that you’ll be able to participate.
Looking forward to continuing this important work with you.
 Becca Schwartz
Resettlement Coordinator
Jewish Social Services
6434 Enterprise Lane
Madison, WI 53719-1117
Cell: (608) 960-7883
Direct: (608) 442-4086
Donations Manager

Jim Hornik, our dedicated Donations Manager, is ready to pass the torch to another aspiring and passionate person who feels deeply about the work that we do and is ready to engage with it. 
Working with a few other fabulous co-managers on the Donations team, this position has overall responsibility for managing the donations of furniture and household items on the incoming side, and then, when a family arrives, coordinating the move-in with counterparts at JSS.  It’s one of the more demanding, tangible, and richly rewarding positions within Open Doors.  You too can have the deeply felt satisfaction of playing a key role in providing for and setting up apartments for incoming refugees.  If you think you have the desire, passion and dedication to do this work, please send an email to  You would have big shoes to fill, and ample opportunity to do so.

And we want to offer an exceptionally big thank you to Jim for his many months of dedicated, above-and-beyond service.  We are so grateful Jim for all you've done and still continue to do!
Please note, here are links to all previous newsletters 

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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