Engraved at the feet of Lady Liberty are the following words, part of a poem by Emma Lazarus called The New Colossus: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
The poem's words certainly resonated with the Clay Presbyterian Church. As one of the church's mission projects, parishioners donate food, clothing, furniture and more to the Center for New Americans to be used by refugees seeking to make their home in Central New York.
Many churches sponsor refugee families, said Bill Hayes, president of the church's advisory board. As a small church, we can't afford to do that. But we do what we can.
Clay Presbyterian is located on Stearns Road halfway between Route 31 and Caughdenoy Road. The small congregation has several mission projects dedicated to improving the community and helping those in need. In addition to providing goods and labor to the Center for New Americans, the church collects food for the Westminster Food Pantry and donates to the Christian Children's Fund and Samaritan's Purse. Church members also put together gift bags for area nursing homes, this year distributing 28 of the bags.
But the refugee program is one of the church's biggest projects.
The program has really grown at our church, Hayes said. It just kind of happened. We picked up on it and continued with it.
Each week, Hayes said, he and other church administrators deliver a bag of items that members have dropped off at the church for donation, which include clothes, furniture, pots and pans, household items and more.
All of the donated items go to help refugees as opposed to other new immigrants. Hope Wallace of the Interreligious Council's Center for New Americans explained the definition of a refugee.