On Friday, January 19th, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen was welcomed at the Community Center Saint Raphael Parish in Manchester to celebrate the success of the new center that supports refugees and immigrant families by connecting them to vital services. The Community Center was opened in partnership with the Meelia Center of Community Engagement at Saint Anselm College.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Kat O’Loughlin ’10, director of the community center, was encouraged by the number of families that the Center has supported during its initial months. Since the Center officially opened in August 2023, they have assisted over 45 families. The Community Center offers services for refugees and immigrant families to help find housing, health services, and English classes offered at different levels. Many Saint Anselm College students help teach the English classes offered three times a week.

Senator Shaheen was pleased with the accomplishments of the community center. She spoke with Ukrainian and Peruvian refugees discussing how the community center has helped them adapt to American culture. The senator was hopeful that her role on the United States foreign relations committee can make better conditions for immigrants and refugees.

Senator Shaheen speaking with students

“One of the things that I think is really important about this country and about New Hampshire is people from all different parts of the world who have come and stayed here. And they have brought their culture and their language,” remarked Senator Shaheen as she greeted the mothers.

Saint Raphael’s was founded 135 years ago to serve the German immigrants in the neighborhood, and now the church continues to help the immigrant community in a modern way. “We serve them in so many different ways,” said O’Loughlin. “From translation services, helping with immigration and refugee forms, setting up doctor’s appointments, to securing apartments. We also offer cooking classes and teach how to navigate an American grocery store. And families who come to these programs bring their children and they engage with Saint Anselm College volunteers.”

The new Community Center is a result of funds received from a congressional bill signed in December 2022. This grant was awarded to the Meelia Center for Community Engagement, Campus Ministry, and Saint Raphael Parish to coordinate and deliver programs that connect refugee and immigrant families with services like childcare, health care, mental health services, job training and financial assistance.

“The funds that Senator Shaheen helped secure for us is really the reason we’re able to do this work,” said O’Loughlin. “Without these funds, we would not have been able to be here at the Community Center.”