United Way, partners launch Welcoming Nashville Fund

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Judy Orr, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville executive director, speaks to reporters during the press conference for the official launch of the Welcoming Nashville Fund Wednesday, Oct. 13, on the steps of the Historic Metro Courthouse in downtown Nashville. Photo by Katie Peterson.

United Way of Greater Nashville is partnering with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville, the Nashville International Center for Empowerment, and American Muslim Advisory Council to launch the Welcoming Nashville Fund, which will help assist in the resettling of more than 300 Afghans who will arrive in Nashville in the coming months.  

The launch of the fund was announced at a press conference Wednesday, Oct. 13, on the steps of the Historic Metro Courthouse in downtown Nashville.  

“Congress has recently passed a bill that provides temporary assistance for Afghan evacuees. While this funding does help pay for some initial basic needs, our goal is to welcome our Afghan allies with all the tools and resources they need to prosper,” according to the official website for United Way of Greater Nashville. “We are leaning on the Nashville community to ensure our new neighbors have access to the entire network of services and support they need to become economically self-sufficient and successfully transition into life in the United States.”  

Several organization and city leaders spoke during the press conference.  

“If there is one thing that I can say I have seen and that I believe to be true about Nashville, it is that we are not only a welcoming community but when there is a crisis and when there are people in need, we show up as a community,” said Erica Mitchell, United Way of Greater Nashville executive vice president and chief community impact officer. “We have seen that time and time again, and I believe we will see it yet again as we welcome our new Afghan neighbors.”  

The Welcoming Nashville Fund, which has a goal to raise $300,000, will supplement the State Department’s Afghan Placement Assistance Program. The APA Program only provides temporary support that lasts up to 90 days and is limited to $1,225 from the State Department to help meet the most basic needs.  

Catholic Charities and Nashville International Center for Empowerment are the main agencies in charge of resettling the Afghans. They have already welcomed more than 20 Afghans to Nashville.  

“This is hard work, but the work we do as a resettlement agency is really simple,” said Judy Orr, Catholic Charities executive director. “We help them get settled and with basic needs. We help them navigate the city and learn how to live and work successfully, and we make sure that they have the job skills needed, so that we can connect them to employers so that they can be productive citizens. 

“This is important work,” she said. “So many of us came from other countries or our ancestors came from other countries.”  

This process is often estimated to take six to eight months, which is where the Welcoming Nashville Fund comes into play.  

“This fund will make a difference for people and will enable us to provide extended services,” Orr said. “These people have been through trauma, and it is very important that we have the means to help them in the way that they need.” 

Dr. Gatluak Thach, president and chief executive officer of NICE, said that while Catholic Charities and NICE are leading the effort, “we cannot do this alone.”  

“If we do this together, we can make a difference, and that’s why the private sector is important as well as the public sector. This is why the leadership of Nashville come together every day,” Thach said. “When refugees are empowered, when they are supported, when they are welcomed, they thrive, and they thrive in the community.” 

Other speakers at the press conference included Deputy Mayor Brenda Haywood, Councilwoman at Large Zulfat Suara, American Muslim Advisory Council Executive Director Sabina Mohyuddin, and American Muslim Advisory Council Afghan Community Member Mostafa Shamsuddin.   

For more information or to donate, visit unitedwaygreaternashville.org/welcoming-nashville-fund/

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