Established in 2016, Welcome Neighbor STL provides assistance to refugees seeking a fresh start in the St. Louis region. While the original call to action was to help newly-arrived Syrian families, in the years following Welcome Neighbor has helped more than 600 refugees from 11 countries. Its multifaceted program includes pairing volunteers with St. Louis families, teaching English, organizing supper clubs/catering events, and assisting with driving lessons, citizenship classes, housing, employment, family outings and holiday gatherings.
During the height of the COVID crisis, Welcome Neighbor helped with vaccine appointments and virtual tutoring for students.
With a philosophy of “leaving the ladder down” to help those in need, Welcome Neighbor was a natural fit for a SOS grant. The organization received its first SOS grant in 2022 and was awarded a second grant at the 2023 Spirit Awards.
The most recent grant will be used to help recruit and train 75 new family partner volunteers and to support the organization’s popular Supper Club. Through this program, families assisted by Welcome Neighbor participate in making and serving meals at locations across the region.
Zohra Zaimi, Supper Club coordinator, says the Supper Club helps new immigrants establish local connections, learn new skills, and become financially independent.
“Many immigrant families are helping to support families back in their home countries, so their involvement in Supper Club allows them to do that,” Zaimi explains.
“Welcome Neighbor STL is the embodiment of the spirit of the St. Louis Women’s Fund. They contribute to the vitality of the St. Louis region, empowering and connecting individuals to live their best lives in a new country,” says SOS member Suzie Nall, who serves as an ambassador for the organization.
“It is the leadership of individuals like Jessica Bueler (executive director) who make it happen,” Nall says. “Her relentless energy and ability to tune out the disruptions and push through, have provided opportunities for immigrant families as they begin their lives in St. Louis.”
Nall believes Welcome Neighbor STL is an ideal recipient from the Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund because the organization empowers and connects individuals to live their best lives in a new country.
“Jessica has supported women as they develop personally and professionally through educational and entrepreneurial class offerings and partnerships with families,” she says.
“My role has been as an ambassador for Welcome Neighbor, a volunteer, and supporter,” Nall added. “Recruiting donations from friends and family has become an avocation. Their recognition as a grantee truly represents “‘turning good into greater good.’”