They came as residents, neighbors and community leaders to celebrate the welcoming city that is Lakewood, Ohio.
More than 100 attendees ventured to Lakewood Congregational Church on Wednesday evening, May 10, to participate in a community forum entitled “From Refugee to Neighbor Part 2: Understanding Public Policy and Community Impact.” Hosted by LakewoodAlive with assistance from Lakewood Public Library, this community forum sought to build on a previous refugee forum from November 2015 by providing insightful dialogue relevant to the current refugee climate.
After introductory remarks from LakewoodAlive Executive Director Ian Andrews and Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers, moderator David Dombrowiak of the Community West Foundation oversaw a discussion covering a variety of topics, including Lakewood’s role as a resettlement location, how public policy impacts the refugee community and progress made towards supporting refugees.
A distinguished panel of experts from across the local refugee community participated in this community conversation. Panelists included Thomas Kate and Patrick Kearns (both of The Refugee Response), Tom Mrosko (Cleveland Catholic Charities), Janus Small (Refugee Services Collaborative) and Brian Upton (Building Hope in the City)
The panel drew a rousing round of applause from the crowd at various points throughout the discussion, including when Upton provided economic impact statistics indicating that refugees are “the furthest thing from a drain on our economy” and when Kate shared his personal story as a refugee from Burma.
“Ultimately what refugee families are trying to do is no different from what you and I are trying to do – and that’s to make this place meaningful for us,” said Kearns of Lakewood’s role in refugee resettlement.
That Lakewood has a welcoming spirit served as an overriding theme throughout the discussion. Last year saw the arrival of more than 80 refugees to the city.
“In Lakewood we hope to maintain a culture of belonging,” said Mayor Summers. “We need refugees to support and maintain a vibrant economy and a vibrant community.”
LakewoodAlive thanks Community Forum Committee volunteers for spearheading the planning process: Cindy Einhouse, Cindy Friedmann, Katie Kurtz, Rachel Novak, Peter Schindler and Mark Thomas.
LakewoodAlive hosts community forums pertaining to topics relevant to Lakewood citizens. For more information, please visit LakewoodAlive.org or contact Ian Andrews, Executive Director of LakewoodAlive, at 216-521-0655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.