April 25, 2024

Sometimes it’s helpful to look back and remember what was, so you can appreciate how far you’ve come. Sometimes it’s helpful to do that as an organization. Check out what Operations Director, Kellye Dubinski, has to say about City of Refuge’s journey. 

I began my journey with City of Refuge back in October of 2015. They were looking for someone to assist with donations, I was looking for work that would allow me flexibility as I had two kiddos with special needs. It was a perfect fit and I accepted the position without really knowing how it would eventually change my life.

Back in 2015, we didn’t have a building. We had three staff (myself included) that worked to help meet the needs of our friends and that was mostly spearheaded from our cars. My job was somewhat removed from the daily interaction with those we served. I was tasked with selling donated items not in immediate need. The money raised from those donations then went directly back into City of Refuge to assist with any financial needs the organization had.

I started selling those items online and then parlayed that to HUGE garage sales that became somewhat famous around Columbia at the time. I worked hand-in-hand with my mom who helped me set up and organize the massive events. I began to see familiar faces when I would hold these sales at my home. Repeat customers that came for the deals but began to understand along the way the purpose of what I was doing. I always had signage at the sales letting people know what their purchase was going towards and answered many, many questions about what a refugee was here in America. What it meant, how they got here, why they came and what City of Refuge was doing to help.

I was learning along the way as well. This was all new to me at the time and while I had met a few families along the way, I did not grasp the scope or measure of their stories or their journeys. I also didn’t really initially comprehend the struggle they experienced after getting here. It wasn’t necessarily all better once they arrived in America. They were physically safe, but their souls had endured heartache I can only imagine. They didn’t speak our language or understand our educational system or healthcare assistance. Many didn’t even understand the appliances in their own home or how to use them.  

Most refugees live in refugee camps anywhere from 5-10 years before being allowed to come to the U.S. What is mail? What do I do with it if I can’t understand what it says? Where do I go if my child gets sick? How do I apply for a job in a language I don’t speak? The list goes on and on. Only through time and interaction did I begin to grasp the scope of their needs. Only through these interactions did I begin to understand how lonely and isolating it could be to try and start a new life, even in the “land of opportunity”, when you didn’t even know where to begin.

Since 2015, I have watched our staff grow and blossom and fulfill so many needs we could never even have imagined being able to address back then. I have watched as we were blessed with our first space and excitedly worked from a small office graciously donated to us. From there we were able to purchase our first building that we were worried we wouldn’t be able to fill.  

I’ve watched a community rally to support City of Refuge both financially and through their own personal time and energy. I’ve watched programs develop like our English Buddy and English class. I’ve watched garage sales become City Boutique. I’ve watched rolling metal racks filled with donations that we used to wheel out for the week turn into our Basic Needs Closet and Wardrobe, which allow our friends access to items free of charge – every day. I’ve watched in-home learning evolve into a full-fledged preschool with a building, teachers and curriculum. I’ve watched people offering their own cars and time to assist with new drivers turn into a driving simulator and virtual training. I’ve watched as we have integrated computer literacy training, helped to strengthen community development, and grow a volunteer base of hundreds upon hundreds helping every single day.  

I’ve watched. I’ve learned. I’ve worked. I’ve cried. I’ve thanked God for the opportunity to help me find my calling. The evolution of hope is not just the evolving impact City of Refuge has on the refugee community here in central Missouri. It has been my evolution as well. The lives touched through this organization goes both ways. You learn. You see. You love. You want to do more to help.  

City of Refuge continues to evolve to fulfill our mission. It is a mission of love and relational care. It is a journey. Working together to create new opportunities, new friendships and to make a better world for everyone. 

Kellye Dubinski

Director of Operations 

Thus far our 2024 Poem-A-Thon has raised almost $3,000! During the month of April, our poets have been guided through daily prompts to create a poem a day. It is not too late to sponsor one of our amazing poets!

City Preschool is now enrolling for September 2024-June 2025. City Preschool is open to all children, ages 3-5. We are so excited to offer this cross-cultural learning opportunity to Columbia! 

After an amazing turn out to our Holiday Market in December, we are excited to announce our Summer Market; in celebration of World Refugee Day. Sign up now to sell OR volunteer. See you June 22nd!

Thank you for your support!

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