Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Parishioners, Even Target Stores, Join In Refugee Drives

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 23, 2008

Spurred on by the idea that people want to help if asked, Joanne Wider has become an advocate for refugees.

Wider enlisted the help of her choir at St. Ann Church, Marietta, neighbors and even a person holding a garage sale by simply telling them about refugees fleeing persecution and their needs as they remake their lives here.

“People are looking for ways they can contribute and make a difference,” said Wider, 57, who works in the restaurant industry.

Wider learned about the plight from her husband, an archdiocesan employee, who told her how donations for refugees from companies are becoming sparse.

Wider took up the challenge. She collected in a couple of days furniture, home supplies, and negotiated for a couch at a garage sale from $500 to $150. The supplies, along with $300, got two apartments ready for two families from Bhutan. The bulk of the items came from her fellow choir singers. And the group is building a long-term relationship with these families. Anything the families need, like warm clothes, the choir members want to be the first ones asked.

Trying to make it easier for people to do good, Catholic Charities Atlanta started a registry at to allow others to help the newly arrived refugee families. The program began Sept. 26.

Some 170 refugees are to be resettled in the archdiocese by the nonprofit agency. Refugee workers expect to set up some two dozen apartments in the next six months.

Think of it as a wedding registry. But instead of people starting married life together, the bedding, the utensils, and everything else goes to aid families who arrived in Atlanta with their only possessions of the clothes on their back and a plastic bag handed to them at a refugee camp.

Jutta Hansen, the public relations and marketing manager for Catholic Charities Atlanta, said the goal for the registry is to make it easy for people to support the refugee services. The agency prepared everything, so people who want to help just need to go online to Target, she said. The purchased items are delivered to the Catholic Charities’ offices on West Peachtree Street, she said.

It costs roughly $2,100 in the first month to get a family of five settled in an apartment, according to Catholic Charities. Beds and household items cost about $500.

The online registry lists everything it would take to settle into a new home, from a garbage pail and drinking glasses to bath towels and table lamp. There is even a need for a double-bell alarm clock for $12.99.

The household goods on the registry were chosen because they are supplies that people do not donate often and they have modest prices on the Target Web site, Hansen said.

A person can buy as little or as much off the registry as they want. Those wanting to help just select the item and the quantity to buy, and the Web site will go to check out.

The nonprofit set a goal of collecting 50 pieces of every item. Buying one of everything costs about $220.

Catholic Charities recently hosted about a dozen parish leaders, telling them about the new program and hoping to encourage others to talk about refugees in their parishes. For her part, Wider said the experience of assisting the refugees has changed her. “It’s going to be part of my life forever,” she said.

Catholic Charities of Atlanta is subsidized by the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. For more information about the work of the organization, refugee resettlement services and the Target program, go to