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    Helping families prepare for their first Minnesota winter

    Day 271

    Spread a Little Warmth

    Each year, the Twin Cities receives newly resettled refugee families, largely from refugee camps in warm-weather climates like Myanmar, Congo, and Ethiopia. The International Institute of Minnesota (IIM) helps to welcome these families, finding them affordable housing before their arrival. It’s not uncommon for the units or homes that are available to be barren and in need of deep cleaning, so they do their best to prepare the space before families arrive.

    When IIM staff visit newly resettled families in the winter months, they oftentimes find families huddled together under thin blankets with the thermostat set very low to avoid the additional costs that heating can add to an electric bill – sometimes it’s their first-ever winter. They call on their community members to donate as many blankets or warm items as possible to help families during the long, cold months.

    So we had an idea…could we get together a group of people to help create large, warm blankets to be given – right away – to families so they can prepare for the winter ahead?

    So we sent out a call for help and got things going! At IIM’s Hall of Nations, we piled tables high with fleece fabric sets. Families, friends and solo volunteers quickly filled in at the tables, introducing themselves to new faces in the seats next to them. Many people had never made a tie blanket before and were grateful for the guidance on how they could use the pre-cut patterns, scissors, safety pins and teamwork to make their blankets.

    There were grandparents with their grandchildren, couples and groups of friends who came out, all looking for ways to spend the morning together and donate their time and energy in a meaningful way. Nick brought his 15-month old daughter, Mira, to IIM for the event. Mira gleefully cruised around the room saying, “Hi!” and sparking joy as the volunteers made brightly colored and cozy blankets. Though Mira is still under two years old, Nick likes to immerse her in environments were people channel their compassion and focus on caring for others.

    There was another family of four who were certainly not strangers to IIM. The mother and father, who came with their two young daughters, Yohana and Abigail, had been resettled in MN from Ethiopia by IIM years ago. They wanted to bring the girls back to IIM so that they could support other families who were experiencing a transition similar to their own in the past. Their return to the institute as volunteers was not only an inspiration, but the event took place at the same time as the very same citizenship classes they used to attend in the room right next door!

    When all was said and done a whopping 32 fleece tie blankets were completed! Volunteers were also given the option to write a welcome message and tag it to the blanket they handmade.

    One card read, “Welcome to Minnesota! We hope this blanket keeps you warm for this winter and many more!”

    The blankets certainly were not the only products of Saturday’s event: there were bonds formed, connections made, and goodwill was bursting throughout the hall. As a community, the volunteers opted to ‘spread a little warmth’ to their new neighbors who had left the far-away places they called home to establish new ones here in the Twin Cities — hopefully now they can do so with a caring note and a cozy blanket.

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    Changemakers 365

    by Alight


    The world’s tough problems can seem insurmountable. So at Alight, while we tackle those big problems we also do what’s doable. Right then. And that’s what Changemakers 365 is all about. Learn more!


    Changemakers 365 members give either $30 per month or a one-time gift of $365 (it’s free for anyone who has ever lived in a refugee camp). Join us!

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