Here, there is history.

For nearly 100 years, the Lancaster County Community Foundation has worked to honor our shared history and embolden our extraordinary future. We value inclusion and are proud that we have supported–and continue to support–our vibrant refugee communities from across the globe. This rich introduction of cultures is a cornerstone to the perspective, talent, tenacity, and commitment that have been longtime hallmarks of our community.

Since the 1690s, Lancaster County has welcomed individuals like Issac LeFevre and Marie Feree, each fleeing violence and religious persecution in France; and Conrad Beissel, banished from his native Germany before arriving here and founding the Ephrata Cloister. These individuals and thousands more like them arrived in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s to seek freedom, refuge, and safety.

Benjamin Franklin, "Information to Those Who Would Remove to America", 1760

Since the American Revolution, Lancaster has welcomed a steady stream of refugees seeking a safe place to call home. Germans, English, and French citizens flocked here in the 18th century, followed by waves of Irish and eastern European refugees in the 19th century. In the tumultuous 1850s, Lancastrians were among those fighting for the freedom of enslaved Africans, and providing safe passage to slaves seeking harbor in Philadelphia, New York, and Canada.

Lancaster County’s history cannot be told without telling the story of refugees. Our homes, churches, businesses, and government were formed by refugees.

Here, there is innovation.

Everything we do at the Lancaster County Community Foundation seeks to embody the spirit of what makes Lancaster County extraordinary: generosity, innovation, and perseverance. Our history gives us a road map, but our drive to forge creative solutions by joining with community partners keeps our county dynamic. Since 2011, the Lancaster County Community Foundation has worked in a multitude of ways to cultivate opportunities for members of our refugee community.

As part of its program strategies, the Community Foundation has invested more than $300,000 into projects that benefit the local refugee population at all levels of our community.

In 2011, the Community Foundation recognized the need to enhance the services available to newly arrived refugees in Lancaster County. As refugees arrived in Lancaster County, education and outreach to service providers was essential to strengthen services and improve collaborative efforts to provide community support for these new populations. The Community Foundation provided funding to Church World Service (CWS) in partnership with Franklin & Marshall College to improve refugee integration in Lancaster County through the creation of the Lancaster Refugee Coalition, which works with the community to incorporate refugees into social services and community systems.

The Community Foundation, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Lancaster, and the United Way of Lancaster County, provided funds to the Lancaster- Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 and the School District of Lancaster to open the Refugee Center and Community School at Reynolds Middle School. This innovative facility serves as a welcoming and safe space, as a chance to increase refugee parent/student involvement, complimenting the resettlement programs already in place. The Refugee Center is a source of empowerment for families, offering programs such as: Adult Cultural Orientation, ESL and GED classes, financial literacy, home/landlord rights and responsibilities, civic engagement and citizenship classes, health and mental health education, and job training.

Innovation for social good doesn't have to be constrained to the nonprofit sector. In partnership with ASSETS, the Community Foundation developed the Great Social Enterprise Pitch: a friendly business plan competition that cultivates business ideas that also provide benefit to our community. In 2015, the Lancaster Stroopie Company earned the grand prize of the Pitch, a business focused on making quality Stroopwaffles while also providing thriving wage jobs to members of Lancaster's refugee community. The Community Foundation continues to support and patronize the Lancaster Stroopie Company for events, gatherings, and education opportunities.

Beyond our grants and projects, the Community Foundation works to patronize and prioritize businesses across the county who have a focus on innovation and opportunities for our refugee community. Upohar, a social impact food business that employs staff that experience barriers to entering the workforce, including newly-settled refugees. With flavors from Puerto Rico to Iraq to the Himalayas, Upohar is an essential partner for the Community Foundation.

At The Table is an ongoing community-wide conversation that starts with you and your friends. On May 20 and 21 of 2016, we encouraged people all across Lancaster County to come together, share a meal or coffee, and talk about your ideas and hopes for Lancaster County. This was the first step in a continuing effort provide chances for all voices from our community to be heard. Over the course of the weekend, more than 2,000 people at over 100 different tables gathered together to share their thoughts and ideas for our community. The theme of diversity, equity and inclusion appeared as one of the top themes discussed, as well as community engagement. These themes continue to inform our granting and programming strategies.

An At The Table conversation at the Islamic Center of Lancaster slamic Community Center of Lancaster featuring participants from Iraq, India, Ecuador, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, England, and Burma

Nothing brings a community together like music! In January of 2017, the Community Foundation partnered with Church World Service, Music for Everyone, and Tellus360 to deliver the 2nd annual Concert for Refugees. The event featured a refugee call to action, a global tour of refugee communities across the world, and two stages of music featuring immigrant and refugee performances. The event drew more than 1,000 community members together for an unprecedented evening of education, unity, and welcome.

Here, there is a future.

Lancaster County's history of being a welcoming community has received a swell of media attention over the past half year. The stories of countless individuals finding space, community, and opportunity in our County emboldens us to push forward into the future.


You are the ones who continue to keep Lancaster County dynamic, creative, and welcoming. In the coming months and years, the Lancaster County Community Foundation will continue to champion and embolden our extraordinary community, providing opportunities to support our refugee community, and for all members of our community to share their voice.

New and continued programs at the Community Foundation:

  • The Community Foundation recently provided funding to Church World Service to develop an Interpreter and Translation Services Program. This project will hire a consultant to perform a feasibility study, market analysis, and create a business plan for an in-house interpretation/translation service program that will not only provide much-needed services to immigration and resettlement efforts in Lancaster, but provide thriving wage jobs.
  • The Community Foundation will continue to support the Refugee Center and Community School at Reynolds, providing essential services to newly arrived refugees in the School District of Lancaster as well as their parents and guardians.
  • As informed by At The Table, the Community Foundation will build on the momentum of the program and seek to provide more opportunities for community engagement, inviting all voices and ideas about improving our community to be heard.

Here, there is you.

Building and sustaining a welcoming community is hard work, but it is this work that has stitched the fabric of our County for generations. The Community Foundation's continued support of the refugee community will take many forms, but here are some steps you can take right now:

Funds will be used to support organizations providing services to our refugee community:

We'll keep you informed about Community Foundation events and opportunities

Questions? Concerns? Ideas? Let's work together to keep making our community extraordinary

Learn more about our work at

Photo courtesy of Michelle Johnsen Photography

Additional photo credits:

Paul Jamrogowicz

Nicole Daacke

& other local photographers!

Created By
Lanc Found


Michelle Johnsen

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