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.
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.