Originally published in The Florida-Times Union
By Beth Reese Cravey
Jacksonville, Fla. – Jacksonville philanthropists Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver and their family will donate $1 million to two local agencies that resettle refugees fleeing Afghanistan.
The Weavers, their children and grandchildren are making combined family gifts of $500,000 each to Catholic Charities Jacksonville and Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida.
The funds will help about 400 refugees become self-sufficient, according to The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, where the family's charity funds are based.
"In many cases these brave men, women and children have risked their lives to help our U.S. soldiers during the last 20 years, and we are humbled by what they have sacrificed," Delores Barr Weaver said on behalf of the family. "We are confident that if Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services can help them with safe housing, basic necessities and legal, language and employment assistance, these courageous individuals will soon be contributing members of our community."
The Weavers, the first owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars, have been active philanthropists since their arrival.
Many of the Afghan refugees coming to Jacksonville helped U.S. troops in Afghanistan prior to the downfall of the government and the U.S. military withdrawal in August. All of the refugees have been "vetted and approved" by the federal government, according to the Community Foundation.
The two agencies will help arrange housing, transportation, wrap-around services, basic furniture and emergency needs in the refugees' first 90 days in the country. They also will provide case management "for what can be a bewildering array of challenges beyond this initial period," according to the foundation.
While the federal government gives each refugee a "modest … allowance," additional funds are necessary to help them get established and build roots in the community. "Many of them left Afghanistan with only what they could wear or carry," the foundation noted.
Lori Weber, regional director of Catholic Charities, said her organization was honored to receive the "compassionate" Weaver gift.
"It’s difficult to know the trauma and the long-term effects these families will experience from having to leave their home under such distress," Weber said. "Our mission stood ready to welcome and help them flourish here in Jacksonville and now … we will be able to build and expand programs that holistically heal these families."
Lutheran Social Services President and CEO Bill Brim said the funds would be "transformational" for the refugees.
"We consider it a blessing to be there for our Afghan allies who are now making Jacksonville their home," he said. "We couldn't do it alone though. This grant will provide … much-needed resources including staff, housing and vehicles, to make their transition to self-sufficiency as easy possible."
Since August, Catholic Charities has served 135 Afghan refugees, Lutheran Social Services has served 155, according to the two agencies.
The Community Foundation, which helps donors invest philanthropic gifts, stands ready to help "when there is an urgent need to be addressed," President Nina Waters said.
"We take seriously our role to inform our donors about pressing issues as they arise, and to connect them to nonprofit organizations that are on the front lines with solutions," she said. "We are privileged to be able serve as that connector and thereby benefit the entire community."