Photo Caption: Standing left, Pleasant Street church assistant Sabbath School superintendent Chauncey Moore-James presents baskets filled with toiletries to Meg Gallo, matching grant and employment specialist with the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. Seated in the background is Pleasant Street elder on duty, Marlene Alvarez. [Photo: Debra Banks Cuadro]
Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees arrived in the United States to flee the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Some 900 Afghans are expected to arrive in Massachusetts as part of the federal government’s plan to resettle 37,000 Afghans in the first group of arrivals. In September 2021, state agencies in Worcester, Massachusetts, invited community members to donate aid to help these individuals and families. In this call for action, Karen Zeno, assistant Sabbath School superintendent for the Pleasant Street church, saw an opportunity for the Sabbath School department to get involved.
In June 2021, the Sabbath School department hosted Refugee Sabbath and announced ongoing efforts to reach refugees in the community. As the department finalized plans to hold a Homecoming Sabbath in September, the situation in Afghanistan escalated. As news spread about refugees coming to Worcester, the department leadership saw this as impacting the demographic they wanted to assist. “We wanted to do something that would be meaningful and useful in the immediate and long term,” said Chauncey Moore-James, assistant Sabbath School superintendent.
The church pledged to provide 30 baskets filled with essential toiletries and initiated a Toiletry Drive. Beginning on September 11 and lasting for 11 days, church members shopped and delivered bags filled with toiletries and paper products. On September 22, Moore-James presented six large laundry baskets to Meg Gallo, a matching grant and employment specialist with the Worcester-based Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC), during the Homecoming Sabbath program. RIAC is one of the primary points of support for refugees entering Massachusetts. “Based on the donations, we may exceed the intended 30 baskets,” said Moore-James.
Gallo gratefully accepted the baskets and thanked the church members for their generosity. She shared how RIAC assists refugees and invited the church members to partner with them to help with tutoring, driving people to appointments or the grocery store, and more. The Sabbath School department envisions doing more with RIAC. “We discussed a continued partnership with the organization based on needs expressed, and we also discussed sharing literature in the future,” Moore-James said.
Sabbath School and Communication departments, Pleasant Street church