$10K Donation to Refugee Fund; Welcome Coordinator Named

NEWBURGH – The Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council has appointed Cornwall attorney Alisa Swire as Welcome Team Coordinator for local efforts to resettle refugees in this part of the Hudson Valley.

Swire had a pleasant welcome into her new, unpaid position on Dec. 18 when interfaith council President the Rev. Chris J. Antal presented her with a donation of $10,000 to the resettlement effort from an anonymous Orange County donor. Rev. Antal, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern (UUCRT), made the presentation at Sunday services.

The interfaith council and Rev. Antal are members of the Hudson Valley Refugee Solidarity Network which is working to support refugees coming into the area through the new resettlement office run by Church World Services out of Poughkeepsie. The UUCRT is receiving tax deductible cash donations for refugee resettlement on behalf of the council.

Alisa Swire is a graduate of Vassar College and Boston University College of Law. She has over 25 years experience in the legal field, serving most recently as Vice President and General Counsel of Johnson Outdoors Inc., a NASDAQ-traded company headquartered in Wisconsin. Swire has long been interested in international human rights and refugee policy.

“Having just relocated to this area, the timing was perfect to become involved in local efforts to assist with refugee resettlement by local faith communities, Church World Service and Vassar College,” Swire said.

“The current refugee crisis is the most urgent seen for decades and I am thrilled to be working with the talented and generous people of the Mid-Hudson Valley to address this critical need,” she added.

“Efforts are just beginning in Orange County to build a strong foundation for future refugee families to be resettled here. At the moment, I am focused on building and organizing a network of local volunteers and supporters.” Swire can be reached at adswire@gmail.com.

Church World Services (CWS) was born in 1946 when 17 denominations came together to provide aid to worn-torn Europe. 70 Years later, working through the U.S. State Department, it continues to embrace the challenge to assist refugees. Refugees are identified, referred, processed, oriented and thoroughly vetted before arriving in the U.S.

CWS is one of nine resettlement agencies in the U.S. and has opened a new refugee resettlement office in Poughkeepsie. Already, CWS resettles refugees in three New York State locations: Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. The first refugees are expected to arrive in the Poughkeepsie area early in 2017.

Local welcome teams, like the one Swire will coordinate, work collaboratively with CWS staff and provide financial help and education, identify job leads, orient the refugees to local transportation networks, help register children for school and adults for English as a Second Language classes. They also provide initial food and clothing, housing and furniture and other essential services.  The ultimate goal is self-sufficiency for the new arrivals and, according to Brianne Casey of CWS, 85% of the more than 80,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. by organizations like CWS and their community partners last year achieved self-sufficiency in less than 180 days.

Rev. Antal and the Rock Tavern congregation are not strangers to refugee resettlement.  In February of this year the UUCRT helped resettle an Afghan interpreter for the U.S. Army who had served alongside their minister while he was deployed as an Army chaplain. The interpreter was granted refugee status together with his wife and their four children and the family settled in western New York. The husband is now employed full-time and on-track to enter college next year. The wife has learned to drive and the children are excelling in school, receiving “student of the month” awards and accolades from their teachers.