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City of Lancaster announces Certified Welcoming status

September 10, 2019 | Department of Neighborhood Engagement Mayor's Office
By: Amber Strazzo

The City of Lancaster, in partnership with many community benefit organizations and businesses, is celebrating the city’s status of Certified Welcoming, received from Welcoming America just in time for Welcoming Week, Sept. 13 through 22.

City Council will introduce Resolution 44-2019, Recognizing Welcoming Week in the City of Lancaster as Celebrating the City’s Designation as a Welcoming City by the National Welcoming America Initiative, at their regular meeting on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. A reception will be held after the vote in the Commission Room across from Council Chambers.

“We are so proud to certify what we, and the world, knows about Lancaster – that we’re America’s refugee capital. We know that refugees and immigrants make our community and our economy stronger. We know that we are better together and we are proud to embody what I think is a truly American value of welcoming the stranger,” said Mayor Danene Sorace.

Partners in the certification include:

  • Act for Humanity Foundation
  • Bethany Christian Services
  • Bridge
  • Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County
  • CASA
  • Citizens’ Immigration & Refugee Action Committee
  • Church World Service
  • Eastern Mennonite Missions
  • Islamic Community Center of Lancaster
  • IU13 & Refugee Center
  • Lancaster Chamber of Commerce
  • Lancaster Health Center
  • Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership
  • Lancaster Public Library
  • Lancaster County Community Foundation
  • Lancaster County Refugee & Immigration Coalition
  • Literacy Council of Lancaster-Lebanon
  • Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health
  • Rotary Club
  • Spanish American Civic Association
  • School District of Lancaster
  • Tabor Community Services
  • Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
  • United Way of Lancaster County

A growing number of places recognize that being welcoming leads to prosperity. Lancaster is the sixth community to receive this national designation as it joins ranks with Salt Lake County, UT, Boise, ID, Lucas County, OH, Dayton, OH, and Louisville, KY. Lancaster is the first community in Pennsylvania to receive the certification.

Currently, one in seven Americans live in a welcoming community and those communities that become Certified Welcoming are leading the movement by demonstrating their commitment to equity and inclusion through policy and programmatic activities. Certified Welcoming communities gain a competitive advantage by using their designation for attracting and retaining a global workforce and businesses whose values align with welcoming and inclusion.

The City of Lancaster completed an intensive evaluation to earn the Certified Welcoming designation, led by the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development.  Local policies and programs were compared to the comprehensive Welcoming Standard that covers community investments from  education to economic development to policing.

Lancaster will also be rewarded for its achievement by the Flore Foundation, who will make an investment designed to accelerate local business development. 

Veena Kapadia, Co-Founder of the Flore Foundation, said “It is with great pleasure that we acknowledge the achievement of the City of Lancaster as a welcoming community. We look forward to awarding our next grant to a social enterprise in Lancaster in an effort to promote refugees in their pursuit of a self-sustaining livelihood.”

According to research published by New American Economy, in 2014, foreign-born residents contributed $1.3B to the GDP of Lancaster County. In 2014, given their income, foreign-born residents contributed greatly to federal, state, and local taxes, including property, income, sales, and excise taxes levied by either the State of Pennsylvania or by municipal governments.

“Welcoming America is pleased to recognize Lancaster, Pennsylvania as the first city in Pennsylvania to be designated as Certified Welcoming, affirming its commitment to creating an inclusive environment where all residents can thrive and belong,” said Rachel Peric, Executive Director of Welcoming America.

Immigrants make significant contributions to local economies and neighborhoods across the United States, and immigrant-owned businesses employ nearly six million workers nationally. Immigrants-owned businesses also play an outsize role in revitalizing neighborhoods through entrepreneurship, reversing population decline, and homeownership.

“As an immigrant and now as a service provider, I can attest to the welcoming spirit of Lancaster. It is an honor and a privilege for me to be part of this community. The Welcoming Certification is a true testimony of how welcoming Lancaster has been throughout its history and how crucial immigrants are to the story of the city,” said Amer Alfayadh, the Language Services Program Coordinator at Church World Service.

What is Certified Welcoming? 

Welcoming America launched the Certified Welcoming program in April 2017 to establish a formal designation for cities and counties that have taken action on their commitment to welcoming and met the high bar set by the Welcoming Standard. Participants complete a rigorous independent audit to evaluate their compliance with the Standard. Both Certified Welcoming and the Welcoming Standard were designed following standards set by ISEAL

What is the Welcoming Standard?

The Welcoming Standard captures the core of what it means to be an inclusive community. Developed in collaboration with local governments, advocates, and diverse experts, and with input from the public at large, the Standard provides a comprehensive roadmap for immigrant inclusion. The Welcoming Standard addresses a range of essential policies, programs, and partnerships, from language access to hiring practices. Explore the Welcoming Standard.

What is Welcoming America?

Welcoming America is a nonpartisan, national nonprofit that leads a growing movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by helping everyone know they belong.We provide a roadmap and support for places to reduce barriers to full participation and build bridges between immigrants and long-time residents through direct contact and dialogue. Welcoming America believes that all people, including immigrants and refugees, are valued contributors who are vital to our shared future.

What is the Flore Foundation?

Flore Foundation honors the life of Flore Hiensch who dedicated her career improving the lives of refugees. Through grants to social enterprises, Flore Foundation supports those entrepreneurial ideas which will create a positive impact on refugees’ communities and local economy by way of increasing employment opportunities, improved education, community integration, enhanced health or social well-being.