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Sioux City Group Hosts Iowa Welcoming Week

Six women stand arm-in-arm in front of an American flag.
Andrea Paret
Mary J. Treglia Community House
The legal staff of Mary J. Treglia Community House posed for a picture during last year's Welcoming Week along with immigration attorneys from Immigrant Legal Center. They spent the day helping eligible individuals apply for U.S. naturalization.

A national celebration of immigrants will start at the end of this week. In preparation, an Iowa group is working to make sure they still feel welcome, even during a pandemic.

The goal of welcoming week is to make sure communities throughout the country are safe places for immigrants, refugees and long-time residents. This year, the Mary J. Treglia Community House in Sioux City will celebrate by hosting a drive-up food fair.

Andrea Paret, an educator with the Community House, said in the past, welcoming week would have been a great time to mingle with people from different countries, but COVID-19 has prompted a change in the celebration.

"We want to be welcoming every day of the year, of course, but it's good to focus on this because sometimes we forget that people come from other places, they come with other experiences. They might have had difficulties they had to overcome to get here," Paret said. "It's just kind of nice to focus on that and helping people realize that our communities are richer with the diversity that is being brought with people coming from all over the world. And we can learn from each other and share with each other."

Outreach and interpreting/translating coordinator Sonia Coria is an immigrant herself. She said she knows firsthand how important it is for immigrants to feel welcome in Iowa.

"It feels good to know that you're welcome to the community that you're living in. Sometimes you're not very well aware of your surroundings, you don't know that there's always people that are new to the area and so with doing such an event, people that are new to the area will also feel welcome,” Coria said.

The Mary J. Treglia Community House is also hosting a remote help clinic throughout the month of September to encourage applications for naturalization. Paret said all who are eligible are welcome to apply either remotely, or through a one-on-one appointment. The Community House recently won grant money which will go toward staffing the help clinic with attorneys and other legal immigration help.

Some of the funds will also help offset the fees to immigration services. Coria said as an immigrant, it makes a big difference in a home when the community shows interest in the overall wellbeing of its residents.

"You don't have to be from the same cultures, you don't even have to speak the same language. But we're all humans, we all have to respect each other. And we all have to learn to live in this community because, you know, we're all part of it," Coria said.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines