Olive Sephuma, Director of the Center for New Americans, addresses the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Cazenovia during a forum in which new Americans, Beth Broadway (Director of Interfaith Works), Cindy Sutton and Larry Tully (Cazenovia Welcomes Refugees) were panelists. (submitted photo)
“How could a small community like Cazenovia respond to a global challenge like the refugee crisis?” That was the question members of the Common Grounds Challenge Grant (CGCG) committee began asking itself in the Spring of 2016 while discussing “big ideas” for inspiring a community-wide initiative designed to engage multiple constituent groups. With that prompt, CGCG committee members began investigating the feasibility of collaborating with a resettlement agency to welcome a refugee family in Cazenovia. After speaking with several different agencies, a natural fit for pursuing this initiative emerged.
“The CGCG committee felt an immediate bond with Beth Broadway, executive director of InterFaith Works (IFW),” said Cindy Sutton, CGCG member and now co-chair of the Cazenovia Welcomes Refugees (CWR) steering committee that has emerged as a collaborative of entities since that time. “As a resident of Cazenovia, Beth recognizes both the challenges and opportunities an initiative of this magnitude is likely to encounter.”
InterFaith Works and its Center for New Americans, under the direction of Olive Sephuma, have been dedicated partners as the CWR Steering Committee learns about the process of resettlement and discerns how to mobilize resources to welcome a family who has come to the United States to start a life free from the war, terrorism and/or persecution that forced them to flee their home.
Among the organizations that have made commitments to the CWR initiative and have provided representatives to the steering committee are the First Presbyterian Church of Cazenovia (Rev. Tom Oak, Sharye Skinner, Diane Monger, Carolyn Holmes), St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (Rev. Jeanne Hansknecht, Gretchen Lipp), The Key (Chris Wnorowski), Summit Church (Teresa Saunders, Pastor Dan Schallmo), Cazenovia Public Library (Betsy Kennedy), Cazenovia College (Dave Bergh), Village of Cazenovia (Kurt Wheeler), Project C.A.F.E. (Julie Silverman, Laura Connor), Cazenovia Area Community Development Association (Lauren Lines), Common Grounds Challenge Grant (Kelli Johnson, Larry Tully), Cazenovia-Nelson United Methodist Parish (Sharon Schmit), St. James Roman Catholic Church (Lois McManus), Community Resources for Independent Seniors, and Cazenovia Boy Scouts Troop 18 (Sharon Schmit), Rural Health Council of Madison County (Bonnie Slocum), and Margaret Gleeson (Cazenovia Call To Action).
Additionally, Aminy Audi, CEO of Stickley Audi & Co., has encouraged her personal assistant, Saranda Behrami, to join the CWR effort. Behrami, a Cazenovia College graduate whose family came to the United States as refugees from Kosovo, brings a unique and powerful voice to the Steering Committee discussions.
“Saranda’s personal experience, not only as a refugee, but as an individual who lived in the community of Cazenovia, is invaluable to building understanding of what it means to be a welcoming community,” said Julie Silverman, Community Outreach subcommittee co-chair.
In addition to hosting two well-attended education forums over the past year, CWR’s efforts have been championed by St. Peter’s My Lucky Tummy fundraising event in the Fall of 2017 and Project C.A.F.E.’s awareness building event during the Christmas Walk 2017.
“As the CWR vision statement states, ‘Recognizing our shared commitment to our local and global community, the Cazenovia Welcomes Refugees initiative affirms the dignity of all humanity and the rights and hopes for all people to live in safety and harmony,’” said Caroline Cargo, co-chair of the CWR Steering Committee.
To learn more about CWR’s mission and vision or to make a commitment of support, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.