The Charity Gala did go on! Many of us came into the evening having battled a long day with troublesome weather – but then something extraordinary happened that has driven the Refugee and Immigration Services work for the last 40 years. A combination of appreciation sharing and fellowship, as well as spicy curried chicken, cleared bleary eyes and awakened hearts to an incredible story unfolding in little Columbia, Missouri.
In their speeches, Katie Freehling and Senad Music joked that for our refugees arriving at Columbia Regional Airport, the scene does not match up to the grand picture of America they may have been carrying on their journeys. It’s a lot of field with a highway cutting through it. The RIS office then strives to correct the first impression. Senad Music, manager of the Columbia office and refugee from Bosnia himself, said his experience as a “newborn” in the US was a dive into diverse community. Still, he “didn’t see difference,” but “just a lot of people helping each other.”
The scene at the Gala reflected this as attendees mingled between tables and were served Thai cuisine by volunteers from the MU African Youth Initiative. Glittering centerpieces and candlelight sparked conversation under festive tissue-paper flower hangings. The simple gathering hall was carefully transformed into classic elegance in shades of purple, black and gold.
This first annual RIS Charity Gala was a celebration of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual help within Columbia. It was a ceremony of past victory and an encouragement toward growth. Just over 25 countries are represented in the office, with more on the way. RIS looks forward to enhancing its services in classes, managing language barriers, and connecting clients to more opportunities in their new surroundings.
“Tonight is about the story within us all, and what we choose to do with what is left to be written,” Katie Freehling said.
A special thank you goes out to our sponsors: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church for hosting and Thip Thai Cuisine for providing dinner. Also, we would like to thank The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Pampered Chef, Amie B. & The Orchid Emporium, Kent’s on Broadway, Glik’s, Linda Haus, Mustard Seed Fair Trade and Gunter Hans for our great silent auction items.