Stillwater to Host Afghanistan Refugees With Help of Veteran
Beverly Cantrell - October 4, 2021 5:13 pm
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A retired Army colonel is helping the city of Stillwater prepare to host dozens of refugee families from Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Col. Mike FitzGerald, a 20-year veteran and current operations manager for Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma, says the first families are expected to start arriving Nov. 1.
“These are people that are asking for our help,” he said. “They are young families with small children. These aren’t the bad guys.”
Accommodations are being provided by Oklahoma State University and private landlords, FitzGerald said.
“Stillwater is a very welcoming community and home to a lot of international students as part of OSU and has been a very diverse community because of our status as a university town,” Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce said. “I would expect that any new refugee or other international visitors will find it to be a very welcoming place.”
Organizers have also set up a committee structure to help with transportation, adult and children’s education, jobs, household supplies, furniture and groceries.
The children will be allowed to enroll in Stillwater Public Schools, FitzGerald said, and English language classes will be available.
The U.S. Department of State is also providing $1,225 per person in a family and work authorizations are being expedited so family members can find work quickly.
Very Rev. Brian O’Brien, the pastor of Saint Francis Zavier Catholic Church in Stillwater, said he welcomes incoming refugees.
“Whenever a need has arisen, it gets met,” O’Brien said.