Refugees Welcome: Supporting IRCO

29 Nov 2016 12:22 PM | Scott Jeffries (Administrator)

Welcome Basket Donation Drive


  • Detergent

  • Shampoo

  • Soap

  • Paper towels

  • Toilet paper

  • Dish soap

  • $$$


  • Fanladen
    • Wednesdays 6:30-8:30pm or by appointment (
  • Kell's Irish Pub (112 SW 2nd Ave)
    • Starting 12/7 at 2pm
  • Cafe Today Lloyd Tower (825 NE Multnomah St)
    • Starting 12/8
  • TA holiday party
    • Sat 12/17 at Cider Riot, 7pm-midnight
Donate to IRCO: (select “Community Outreach IRCO Relief Fund”)


Like many of you, I’ve been dismayed by the torrent of xenophobic rhetoric engulfing our politics. After the election, I found myself searching for a way that I could make a positive impact, to not just get dragged down into the abyss of social media and comments sections, and feel like I’m actually making a difference in someone’s life. I wanted to show these very real human beings that they are welcome and valued in this community and country.

The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) was founded in Portland in 1976 and has been an integral part of the immigrant community in the 40 years since then, helping families adjust to their unfamiliar new surroundings, acclimate to the culture, and equip them with the life skills they need for success. I found many volunteer opportunities on their website but with a full-time day job and having never done something like this before, I thought that Saturday morning homework help would be a good place to start, get a feel for things, and maybe get more involved from there.

I met with some of the staff there and as you might imagine, it didn’t take long to start talking about soccer. His eyes lit up when I told him I was a season ticket holder. Naturally many of the kids play and love soccer, they have a team, and the girls want to start their own but need a coach (psst, that means you!). We talked of taking the kids to games and the TA coming to play with the kids (and I might have heard through the grapevine that a Timbers player wants to as well), sponsoring club dues, and finding them a place to play when the weather turns bad. The possibilities seem endless. I have visions of one of these kids donning the green and gold some day.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, our very own Michelle “Bella” DeFord had been talking to someone else at IRCO about doing a holiday “welcome basket” drive with basic household essentials that people cannot buy on public assistance. When Sheba learned of both our efforts, she connected us together like the good den mom that she is, and we will be collecting these items (or good old fashioned currency) at the Green Weekend sale this weekend and the TA holiday party on December 17th.

On Saturday, November 19th, Bella, Kyle “Caterjunes” Jones, and I went to IRCO to help the kids with their homework. We were all more than a little intimidated but each found a way to help. I dusted off my 20-year-old algebra skills (thanks in no small part to smartphones and Google), Bella helped a girl write an essay on Where the Wild Things Are, and Kyle helped another young woman write a college application essay (and shared a touching story about it on his Facebook page). It was an extremely rewarding experience and we plan to return - hopefully you can join us!

Before I really knew what I was doing, I filled out an application to become a one-on-one mentor. For only 10 hours a month over a year, you will be matched with a child based on shared mutual interests (gee, I wonder what that will be…) and you are there to serve as a friend and role model, plan activities together, help them with school, and just generally guide them into their new life. With no siblings or children and having never spent much time around kids, I don’t exactly know how to interact with or relate to them, but I hope that this will be a learning and growing experience not just for them, but for me as well. The need for mentors is great so please consider applying.

If you are interested in getting involved in any way, talk to me or Bella or just reach out to IRCO directly. Browse through their volunteer needs and find one that suits you, come help with homework or apply as a mentor, coach their girls’ soccer team, bring supplies to Green Weekend or the holiday party, or just give them some money. This is just the beginning; we look forward to a long relationship between IRCO and the TA. We are a stronger and better society when we are all in it together and they need you now more than ever.

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