Md. churches standing by to help Kosovar families

Most of refugees expected to be sent to larger cities

May 06, 1999|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

As the first wave of Kosovar refugees touched down on U.S. soil yesterday, several Maryland churches stood poised to help them settle here -- but it was unclear whether and when they might get the call to serve.

Late last week, Govans Presbyterian Church in Baltimore had been prepared to be host to a family of 13 and was ready to sign leases on two apartments to house them. Then came a call saying those plans were on hold.

"We're just all waiting now," said the Rev. Jack Sharp, pastor of the York Road church. "We're collecting things at the church, so if we get a call we'll be ready to move into action."

Ruth Anne Dawson, program director for refugee services at Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, which covers Maryland, said she did not expect that many of the 20,000 refugees coming to the United States would be sent here. Yesterday, her best guess was fewer than ten families, though she said that could change.

Dawson said she had offers of help from at least four churches in or near Baltimore -- Govans, St. John's Lutheran Church in Parkville, Samuel Lutheran Church in Catonsville and St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Aberdeen -- and many more in the Falls Church, Va., area, where her office is located. "We're not going to be able to meet that desire to help at all," she said.

The 10 relief agencies coordinating the resettlement will have time to sort that out. The refugees are expected to spend at least two to three weeks at Fort Dix, N.J. -- time they will spend having medical screenings and learning about life in the United States. Agencies there will try to determine if any refugees have relatives willing to take them in.

Dr. Patricia Maloof, director of refugee programs for the U.S. Catholic Conference's Migration and Refugee Services, said her agency could be sending some refugees to Maryland, but "we do not have very big numbers at this moment."

Most of the refugees do not have families in the United States. They are expected to go to cities with large Albanian communities, such as New York, Chicago and Detroit.

Pub Date: 5/06/99

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