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Fredericksburg area's refugee resettlement program is growing
With a broad smile, Munira Marlowe helps Liberian refugee James Doe apply for a driver's license.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By NATASHA ALTAMIRANO
By NATASHA ALTAMIRANO
When Munira Marlowe isn't working, she's on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Marlowe coordinates Fredericksburg's refugee resettlement program and has a caseload of 26 families--104 people--from all over the world.
When she's not shuttling refugees to and from doctors' appointments or setting up apartments for new arrivals, the 44-year-old single mother is raising three sons.
She says she gets through the long days and difficult work because it's God's will.
"I'm doing this for God--as long as God gives me the strength, I'll push on," said Marlowe, who is Muslim, in an October Free Lance-Star article. "I see a light at end of the tunnel."
Since that story was published, the light has gotten brighter.
"Everywhere I go, people are opening their doors and saying, 'What else can we do?'" Marlowe said in a recent interview. "That's why I have the energy."
The Fredericksburg Refugee Service Center is a satellite office of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington's Office of Resettlement.
A variety of Fredericksburg-area churches, nonprofit organizations and individuals have contacted the local refugee center to offer financial support or to volunteer.
Fredericksburg Baptist Church has been one of the most active supporters.
In November, staff from the Princess Anne Street church helped Marlowe move the program from its Spotsylvania County office to a new location in the city's Bragg Hill neighborhood.
The church invited the refugees to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
For the latter holiday, the church celebrated not only the birth of Jesus, but also the birthdays of all the refugees, who come from several faith backgrounds, said the Rev. Jeanne Anderson, the church's minister with adults and missions.
Church members donated a birthday cake, 5 pounds of goat meat and 20 pounds of rice, yams and other food to each refugee family, Anderson said.
Families from the church's preschool sponsored refugee children for Christmas gifts.
Volunteers got to know many refugees through the church's ESL classes at the Bragg Hill Family Life Center, Anderson said.