The city of Chattanooga held the first Bridging Communities meeting, a collaboration between Chattanooga’s Department of Equity and Community Engagement, Northside Neighborhood House, and community partners serving immigrant and refugee communities.
ECE partnered with Northside Neighborhood House to convene a group of nearly 50 organizations and service providers to explore best practices in serving immigrant and refugee communities, including but not limited to providing translation services to make city services more accessible, expanding the city of Chattanooga’s free English as a Second Language classes, and training for nonprofit partners in interacting and communicating with immigrants and refugees. The next meeting will be held on Jan. 17, 2024.
Participating partner organizations included The Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, Bridge Refugee Services, La Paz Chattanooga, Hamilton County Schools’ International Welcome Center, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann’s Office, Volunteers in Medicine and more.
"New Americans are an important part of our community, bringing valued perspectives and contributions to our local economy and culture,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “I’m excited about this new effort to better connect these new folks to available resources and support systems that can set them up for success as they acclimate to becoming full-fledged Chattanoogans. We appreciate every partner who has come to the table to help make this effort a success, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact of the collaboration.”
The meeting was co-created by Chattanooga’s Department of Equity and Community Engagement, specifically Kelly Valcarce, the city of Chattanooga’s director of the Office of New Americans, and Northside Neighborhood House. The coalition will meet every other month with the intention of working collaboratively on several initiatives that would benefit new citizens to the city of Chattanooga. The group intends on together creating a collective resource directory for immigrants and refugees who are new to Chattanooga.
“This is what happens when government, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders work hand-in-hand to support vulnerable groups of individuals,” said Ms. Valcarce. “Bringing this work to the forefront is a major priority of the Kelly Administration. Bringing together a unified coalition of organizations may sound simple, but it means we can create a much more comprehensive set of resources through collaboration and cross-referrals.”
"Bridging Communities provides a dedicated time and space where non-profits and city governments unite, working collaboratively to empower and support our diverse communities, “ said Meghan Creecy, chief stability officer for Northside Neighborhood House. “Recognizing the importance of staying connected as both service providers and community members, Bridging Communities highlights a shared commitment to understanding and solving complex barriers that our new Chattanooga families face. This united effort emphasizes that, in the pursuit of community well-being, no one stands alone."