Austin showcasing its welcoming nature

Published 10:43 am Thursday, September 15, 2016

Austin is kicking off its first Welcoming Week.

After joining a national organization, Austin is hosting a variety of events through Sept. 28 to ensure all residents feel welcome in Austin.

The council voted in July to join Welcome America, an Atlanta, Georgia-based membership program of about 75 to 100 members offering tools, resources, webinars and toolkits from other communities who have tried and had success with becoming a more welcoming community.

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The goal of the celebration is to bring together residents in a spirit of unity in order to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone.

“Austin is excited to celebrate our inaugural Welcoming Week,” City Administrator Craig Clark said in a press release. “Our success as a community depends on making sure that all residents feel welcome here.”

Mayor Tom Stiehm declared Sept. 15-25 Welcoming Week 2016, as it will be seen as a week to celebrate the community’s vibrant diversity and success that stems from being a welcoming community.

“I invite all residents of Austin to join this movement of communities nationwide by renewing our commitment to our core American values and by taking action in the spirit of welcoming,” Stiehm’s proclamation read. “By working together, we can achieve greater prosperity and make our community the kind of place where diverse people from around the world feel valued and want to put down roots.”

The celebration will include several community events and the launch of a Welcoming Initiative by the Austin Human Rights Commission.

“This celebration is a strong statement that Austin is a leader in working to create a more just and inclusive community,” Human Rights Commission Chairman Jason Baskin said in a press release. “By recognizing the contributions that we all make, we can make our community more prosperous and vibrant.”

Events include a Lights on After School event at the YMCA, the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a 5K and food drive, and a Human Rights Commission event is planned to discuss barriers to being a welcoming community.

The Community Learning Center, the South Sudanese, the United Way of Mower County, Austin Literacy Group, Mower County Health and Human Services and The Hormel Institute’s Mentor Group all have events planned.

During this annual series of events through Welcoming America and its partners, communities bring together new and long-time residents in a spirit of unity to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone – including new Americans. More and more communities across the United States and the world are recognizing that immigrants and refugees make our communities stronger economically, socially, and culturally.

“These celebrations are part of a powerful and growing movement in our country and around the world,” said David Lubell, founder and executive director of Welcoming America, in a press release. “Communities recognize that they are more vibrant and prosperous when everyone feels welcomed and can fully participate. In events across the world this week, new and long-time residents are building bridges that make the communities stronger, together.”

Welcoming Week celebrations will include:

•Sept. 9-16: Green Card Voices display

—Austin Public Library

•Sept. 15: Newcomers Bus Tour of Austin & dinner at El Mariachi

•Sept. 17: Mower Refreshed & Chamber of Commerce  Harvest 5K & Harvest Fest 2016

—5K starts 9 a.m. at the Municipal Pool parking lot

—Harvest Fest 10a.m.-2 p.m. Municipal Pool area & Downtown Austin

Sept. 21: Visit from Mexican Consul

—11 a.m. Riverland “Immigrant Stories” presentation sponsored by Riverland Student Senate & Multicultural Group

—12 p.m. Southgate parent meeting

•Sept. 21-23: International Skin Carcinogenesis Conference with scientists from around the world

—The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota

•Sept. 22: “Lights On After School” program

—4:30 p.m. at YMCA

•Sept. 24: Mower County Historical Society Fall Harvest Celebration

—11 a.m. at SE end of Mower County Fairgrounds

•Sept. 28: Sumner Elementary Neighborhood Flag Walk

—1:45 p.m. at Sumner Elementary School