A few months back, real estate agent Christopher Webb, of Shawnee, Kansas, was showing one of his houses to potential buyers. They said they liked the house, just not the location. Why? Because the house was close to a local Islamic community center.
“I was shocked at the number of potential buyers who commented that they were not interested in the house because of the proximity to the Islamic Center,” Webb said. “Just kind of surprised that people are so afraid of others … just crazy.”
In late January, President Trump signed the first executive order temporarily banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
“As a white, American-born male, I have never felt the type of fear and discrimination that Muslim Americans must feel,” Webb said. “And I felt compelled to do something to show my support.”
Webb initially proposed the idea of helping immigrants and refugees in his small church group. Feeling supported by the other members, he reached out to a contact at the LIKEME Lighthouse-KC, the region’s LGBT community center.
Webb worked with Lighthouse staff members Felicia Kyle and Samantha Ruggles to get a plan together to host a clothing drive at the center. Over the first weekend in March, Webb and the Lighthouse collected clothing and other domestic items for Kansas City immigrants and refugees.
On March 5, Webb and his husband, Derrick Rieke, stopped by the Lighthouse to pick up the several boxes and bags of clothing donated over the weekend. They donated the items to Jewish Vocational Services, one of several Kansas City-based organizations that help immigrants.
“If I can even help a little or make a little bit of a difference, a family someplace will be better off because of it,” Webb said.
The Lighthouse has been pleased with the support the LGBTQIA community provided. They have received dozens of phone calls and emails from individuals interested in helping the community, including contributing to immigrant communities.
“We are excited at this and other grassroots movements,” Ruggles said. “Our goal is always to give back to our community, and this is a very tangible way to do so.”
Kansas City is home to several organizations that work with immigrants and refugees. Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are some local organizations that accept donations and support immigrants and refugees:
- Catholic Charities (https://catholiccharitiesks.org/refugees/donate-items-to-refugees)
- Della Lamb Community Services (http://www.dellalamb.org)
- Don Bosco Centers (http://donbosco.org/ways-to-give)
- Jewish Vocational Services (http://www.jvskc.org/household-donations)
Darin Challacombe is vice president of the LIKEME Lighthouse board of directors.